All effective essays have a distinctive theme. Referring back to the essays we read in the previous post, we might say that our MPH candidate’s theme was her passion for finding answers to significant public health issues. Our law school applicant’s theme was his yearning for greater intellectual challenges while remaining in the healthcare field.
It may take time and introspection to find your theme. The questions below are designed to help you define your essay’s main message. Your answers will also help you express your goals, values as they relate to your career choice, motivations for pursuing a graduate degree, and professional dreams. While introspection isn’t as popular an activity as, say, yoga or streaming TV and movies, it’s an important part of this process. Give it some time; your essay will be much better for it.
- Why are you passionate about – or at least committed to – your career choice?
- Diving deeper into the question above, what experiences in your life (personal, educational, professional) have influenced your career goals the most?
- Has any individual played a major role in helping you discover these goals or values?
- What do you hope to achieve in your career?
- What would career success look like in five years? Ten years?
- What personal strengths (communication skills, empathy, persistence, etc) do you bring to this career?
- What professional skills (organizational, clinical, teaching, mentoring, etc) do you bring to this career?
- What experiences can you write about that will highlight these strengths?
- After the admissions committee has read your essays, what three words would you hope they would use to describe you? Would you like them to consider you “driven,” “intelligent,” and “creative?” How about “dedicated,” “a leader,” and “focused?” No matter what image you want to create, think about experiences that will illustrate those qualities.
Once you begin to think about these questions, some answers will come to you quickly, while others will require time to percolate. Write down your ideas, memories, and insights as they come. As they pile up, you will identify those experiences that were colorful or dramatic enough to become your essay introduction.
If you are writing multiple essays, such as for different MBA programs, each one must have its own theme. The admissions committee members want to see you as a multifaceted individual and have crafted their questions accordingly. These questions provide you the opportunity to display different aspects of yourself, your values, and your personality.
- Carve out some time for introspection about your career goals, values, and motivation. (Yes, that means your phone is in another room, or at least on “Do Not Disturb” mode.)
- Develop distinct themes for each essay required for any program requiring more than one essay. Use these opportunities to show yourself as a multifaceted individual.
In the next post in this series, we’ll share insights into how to write an exemplary MBA goals essay.
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By Judy Gruen, former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University. She is the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!