Let’s take a look at all the elements that go into creating an MBA application: There’s your GPA, your transcripts, your GMAT, a resume, your letters of recommendation, all those boxes and forms on the actual application page, and finally, your MBA application essays.
Creating Your Unique Puzzle
One way we like to view all these elements is to look at them as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The final product may be your MBA application, but the picture that you complete by piecing together each of the components is a picture of YOU, the life-force and essence of your application. The purpose of presenting all of the above information to the adcom is to introduce yourself to them, so if the pieces don’t fit together to create this picture, then you haven’t made a proper introduction.
Now, you don’t want to submit all of these elements and then have the adcom stumped as to how they all fit together; instead, you want to hand them over in a neat package that MAKES SENSE, so that as they read or examine each piece, they’re able to quickly and naturally see how each piece fits into your unique puzzle. When they are finished with the last essay, they should sit back and say, “Hey, I understand this person professionally, extracurricular-ly, and personality-wise. I’d like to get to know him better,” and then stick your application in the “Send Interview Invite” pile.
Realize the functions of the different elements:
- Resume: Summary and bird’s eye view of your professional credentials.
- Transcript and test scores: Raw data on academic qualifications.
- Essays: You telling your story. Opportunities for you to take a deep dive, adding depth to readers’ understanding of critical events as well as insight into what makes you tick.
- Letters of Recommendation: Another’s perspective on you as a professional.
The Essays as Puzzle Glue
I can’t overemphasize the importance of having strong application essays in this equation. The other application elements will definitely portray important aspects of who you are, but it’s the MBA essays that will really hold the puzzle together, fill in the gaps, and add the color and vibrancy that the other data lacks.
5 Tips for Using Your Essays to Hold Your Application Together
Keep the following advice in mind as you work to complete your MBA application jigsaw puzzle:
- Each application essay should highlight different qualifications or experiences that you want to showcase to the adcom
- Minimize overlap between stories in essays. Failing to do so is comparable to sticking two identical puzzle pieces in a puzzle box.
- Use the essays to address weak points in your record or subtle stereotypes in your profile. Doing so will help promote your cause (though please, don’t be defensive, apologetic, or whiny), as well as unify your application by connecting to other parts of the puzzle. (Pointless regurgitation or repetition of ideas or stats is…well…pointless, and should be avoided.)
- Use details and descriptions in your essays. Think of these writing techniques as the color, boldness, or glossy finish on a puzzle.
- Balance story and insight, description and analysis.
Getting Jiggy with Your MBA Jigsaw Puzzle
Your entire application should create a cohesive, coherent, unified picture of YOU, featuring your most impressive accomplishments, noteworthy experiences, and important scores and stats. It should be whole, not fragmented; a missing piece will make your application puzzle look sloppy, not to mention not yet finished.
Do you need help putting all your MBA application puzzle pieces together successfully? View A Winning MBA Application Strategy, a collection of resources that will teach you how to create a unified, COMPLETE MBA application jigsaw puzzle.