All You Need is a Story
You’re writing an application essay that you hope will grab the attention of your admissions readers and convince them that you are top b-school material.
Which of the following do you think is the most effective MBA essay strategy?
- Construct a theoretical analysis of the importance of leadership.
- Create a detailed list of your skills, accomplishments, and talents.
- Compose a story that illustrates your originality, ingenuity, and innovation.
Let’s look at each of our options.
1. Construct a theoretical analysis of the importance of leadership.
Wrong. This could be the basis for a very interesting dissertation, but it’s not the material of an MBA essay. The admissions readers want to learn about who you are as an applicant, a professional, and an individual. An essay that explores the intricacies of…well, of anything…will detract from your singular purpose: of introducing the reader to YOU.
2. Create a detailed list of your skills, accomplishments, and talents.
Wrong again. You’re including an MBA resume along with the rest of your application, right? Don’t regurgitate that same material here. Sure it’ll tell your readers about who you are, but there’s one word for an essay like that: BOOOORING.
3. Compose a story that illustrates originality, ingenuity, and innovation.
Correct! The best way to grab your reader’s attention is to tell a representative, transformational story – based on a moment, object, or event – that personalizes who you are, where you’ve been, and what you plan on doing moving forward. A good story will connect the dots between the past, present, and future and will reveal your strengths, talents, and passions in a much more compelling way than any resume or theoretical exploration can do.
Some basic storytelling tips:
- Use succinct, sensory language and vivid details to grab – and then keep! – the attention of your reader.
- Choose a plot or a moment in time that can easily be retold in full in the limited space you’re given. You don’t want your reader left with questions about who someone is or what happened next or, worst of all, why this story is of importance at all.
- Avoid buzzwords and clichés like “perseverance,” “actionable,” “growth opportunity,” or “at the end of the day.” They only make you look shallow, not smart.
For more valuable tips on how to compose your winning MBA application story, please view Essays that Stick, a FREE 45-minute webinar that will teach you six memorable techniques for creating a memorable MBA essay.
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