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Essaying an Admission

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We are looking for candidates who are driven, focused and who have some idea of where they are heading. We are also looking at applicants who have a very good command of their identity and how they’re going to accomplish their aspirations.

Moreover, we are interested in knowing how we are going to help them achieve their goals. If the applicant knows this, then they are ready to apply to business school,” says Linda Meehan, dean and executive director, Columbia Business School.

Your essays are extremely crucial and probably the only tool you have to tell the admissions staff about your life, career and goals. It is an indirect way to interact with the committee. So, making a lasting impression on them will help your case for admission. The real question is how exactly do you convey this information to the admissions committee?

Writing about yourself can be a challenging ordeal. You have to introspect and figure out an interesting and innovative way to present the experiences that have been responsible for molding your character. Before you start writing, sit with a piece of paper and answer the following questions:

Why do you need an MBA at this point?

What do you expect to achieve after completing an MBA in the short term as well as long term?

What makes your application unique?

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

What activities have you done or experiences have you had, that demonstrate leadership potential and strong analytical ability?

How will this school specifically help you achieve your career goals?

Most students tend to be frightened about writing essays. Admission officers are not looking for flowery language and ‘big’ words. The admissions committee prefers essays that are well thought out and reflect what’s important to you.

Once you have your ideas splattered across a piece of paper, your actual essay writing will become easier. “It took me days to pen down various aspects of my life.

But once I got over the initial fear of writing, I actually began to enjoy the process. Also, once I finished working on the basic essays for one university, all the other universities’ essays overlapped,” says one B-school aspirant.

Remember these points when you start writing:

Make sure you are answering the question. Often applicants beat around the bush for so long that they miss the point of the essay. For example, a question may ask, ‘State your career objectives and how our school will help you achieve them.’ If you answer, ‘I plan to come back to India and set up my own hedge fund and provide consultancy services to existing mutual fund companies’, you have answered the first part of the question but have failed to answer how the university will help you achieve this goal.

In order to answer part two of the question, you must research the particular university and talk about certain facilities that pertain to your interest and education like courses offered, research facilities, internships, etc.

This is no time to be modest. It is important to highlight and embellish your strengths and achievements. In order to do this, you must use specific examples from your life to substantiate your claims. For example, if you state, ‘I am a confident team leader who can motivate my team in many ways’ and leave this statement without any supporting example, the statement loses strength.

However, you must be honest and straightforward when writing about yourself. Admission officers are trained professionals and can spot a fake easily. Don’t try and bluff your way and exaggerate your achievements.

Similarly don’t guess what the university is looking for and then tailor your essay accordingly.

Along the same lines, you must include all relevant work experience, teamwork and leadership experiences, and post-MBA career goals in your essays. B-schools rely heavily on essays and even if you have excellent GMAT scores and work experience, badly written essays can certainly cause trouble.

Follow instructions. If a university requires an essay to be 500 words long, don’t send in 510 or 550 words. Word limits are there for a reason and it’s in your best interest to follow directions. Similarly, if the instructions are to fit your essay on two pages, please exercise common sense and use ‘normal’ A4 paper and type with a 12-point font size.


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