As an EMBA applicant, you have many years of impressive experiences and intriguing insights. How will you fit them all into your essays?
You won’t. In fact, you shouldn’t. It’s an intuitive response to want to, but it’s the wrong response. Trying to do so will only create a muddle, especially if you succeed in “fitting it all in.” Rather, be selective and thoughtful. Think about the top two to three points and/or experiences to convey, prepare to discuss them substantively, and be willing to leave much of the rest out. This approach will allow you to speak with depth, discipline, and detail.
The topics and experiences you choose to write about in your essays will usually fall into one of two categories:
- Ideas and experiences that you want to convey because they’re extremely impressive, set you apart in some way, and support your strategy.
- Topics that you have to write about because the question requires it.
The trick is to try to work as much of #1 into #2 as possible. Make the essays do “double duty,” answering the question effectively while also advancing your message and mission.
Select essay content that supports the overall strategy and theme while showing different sides of you (even if the focus is solely professional, that dimension itself is multifaceted), so that you don’t come across as one-dimensional. A good analogy is a symphony, which usually comprises four distinct movements. Consider the relationship between the four movements. They’re connected by deep underlying melodies or structural elements, but each movement has its unique rhythm, dynamic level, feeling, treatment of the melody, etc. Each is a facet that enriches and balances the other parts while contributing a unified whole. This is how your essays should work together. Content is part of that. For example, if you have leadership as the main theme of one essay, don’t make it the main theme of another essay, but rather balance it by making another essay theme, for example, interpersonal astuteness or creativity. These qualities can be related to leadership, after all – they’re not directly connected but they’re not unconnected either.
Use at least some current experiences to give the adcom a vivid picture of your present work situation. Once that is done, if you have more to write, it’s nice to draw on older experiences also, which allows you to demonstrate growth or an early track record of success. While it may be fine to focus exclusively on recent or current experiences, however, do not use only experiences from the deeper past, which will give the impression that you have plateaued early and have not continued to excel.
This excerpt is from this month’s featured ebook, The EMBA Edge, a guide to getting in by Linda Abraham, Accepted.com founder and president, and Cindy Tokumitsu, an EMBA specialist and Accepted.com editor. Buy The EMBA Edge by December 31, 2009 and receive 20% off when you use coupon code EMBA.
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