Essay Tip: The Editing Funnel

Most of you now are — or soon will be — editing your critical application essays and personal statements. When editors review and edit your essays they go through a process I call the editing funnel. If you choose to be your own editor, you should follow a similar process.

At the top of the funnel you evaluate your essay in the context of the application. Does it add to the reader’s knowledge of you? Does it introduce the reader to a dimension not revealed in the boxes, numbers, and transcripts? If you are submitting more than one essay in your application, do they complement each other?

Going deeper into the funnel, your focus should narrow to the individual essays. Check that each essay has a clear theme and logical structure. Ensure that it addresses the question(s) posed. Finally, look for the specifics that will add life and distinctiveness to your writing and your application.

At the narrowest part of the funnel, check writing mechanics: clarity, grammar, style, word usage, spelling, punctuation, and all the nitty-gritty details of writing. You may be a little bleary-eyed at this point and almost unable to view the essay(s) objectively. To restore a little objectivity, put the draft away preferably for a couple of days; if you don’t have that much time, then at least a couple of hours. When proofing your essay, read it out loud. Doing so will slow you down and allow your ear to catch some of the little errors that your eye may miss.

Additional resources:

If you want professional editing that saves you time and guides your essay(s) through the editing funnel while maintaining your voice, please check out’s professional personal statement and application essay editing.

Hot Career Round Up

The CollegeJounal provides a worthwhile summary of job trends in "Where Starting Pay Is Richest for New Grads." Nothing new or startling, but still worth knowing if you are choosing professional directions. A few highlights:

  • This is a great year to be graduating and looking for that first job.
  • Starting pay is up 4-6% in finance and technical sectors.
  • Average starting salary for an accountant with a newly-minted, four-year bachelor’s degree is $46,000+.
  • The highest paying field is aerospace.
  • Salaries for liberal arts graduates — in fields such as sociology, psychology, English and government — in the past year have remained essentially flat and are significantly lower than those in the hot technical and business fields.

USC Marshall 2007 Application Tips and Deadlines

My administrative assistant returned from maternity leave and reminds me that I failed to post tips for USC Marshall’s application. It’s still not too late, so here goes. My comments are in red.

USC Marshall 2007 Deadlines 

                   Deadline            Earliest Notification Date
Round 1     December 1       February 2
Round 2     January 15         March 30
Round 3     February 15        April 27
Round 4     April 1                   May 25

USC Marshall 2007 Essay Tips

1) Describe in a brief essay (do not exceed 250 words per section – 750 words maximum):

a) your post-MBA short-term goals (immediately after graduation),
b) your post-MBA long-term goals (3-5 years after graduation), and
c) how your professional experience, when combined with an MBA degree, will
enable you to achieve these goals.

This is a straight-forward goals question with a little more guidance on length than most schools give.  As always with this type of question, connect the dots. Let’s the reader see that your goals stem organically from your experience and are achievable given your experience and an MBA. from Marshall

2) Complete one of the following three statements. Do not exceed 250 words.

a) "My most significant accomplishment to date is…"
b) "People may be surprised to learn that I…"
c) "I am considered a leader because…"

Take a step back and look at the application as a whole. How are you going to answer #3. You want #2 to complement #1 and #3, bringing out aspects of your experience, personality and background not found in other parts of yoru application. Before you choose a topic, look at the question strategically. Then pick the topic that will add most to your application and that excites you the most.

3) Answer two of the following questions. Do not exceed 500 words per question.

a) The Marshall MBA Prime Program prepares students for doing business in a global economy. Describe a cross-cultural experience that challenged you. How did you meet this challenge and what did you learn from this experience?
b) USC has garnered national acclaim for its emphasis on community outreach and service. How have you impacted your community?
c) We all experience significant events or milestones that influence the course of our lives. Briefly describe such an event and how it affected you.

This question gives you a little more direction than #2. But not a lot. In these last two questions, USC is giving you lots of room to present yourself in the best light. For #3,  if international experience is your strong suit, answer a; if community service is your middle name, respond to b. If you have some other event or experience you wish to shine a spotlight on, go with c. Choose the two that present you at your best. 

4) Optional Essay: Please add any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to consider in evaluating your application. Do not exceed 250 words.

Please see "The Optional Essay: To Be or Not to Be"  

For one-on-one guidance through the Marshall application, process please check out’s USC Marshall Application Package or our other MBA essay editing and consulting assistance.

Cornell Johnson Admissions Chat December 14

Please join us for Cornell Chatter, an online chat, on Thursday, December 14, 2006 at 10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET/6:00 PM GMT when Randall Sawyer, Cornell Johnson’s Director of Admissions; will answer your important questions about this top MBA program. Use this outstanding opportunity to ask questions about Cornell’s immersion programs, student life, admission policies and programs. Join us on Dec. 14!

The chat will take place in the’s chat room. For more information, please email your questions to

For information on the time in your location, please visit