After devoting many days and countless revisions to his 250-word Stanford GSB Reliance Fellowship essay, the blogger at MBAdreamz concludes: “The mantra for writing essays should be bringing one’s ‘INSIDE OUT.’ The more one knows and reveals (about himself) in the essays, the more comfortable and confident he would be with the essays.” Having worked with grad school applicants for 13 years, I understand what he means, and I also understand some of the process he went through before he was satisfied with his essay.
Applicants are always eager to begin grad school as a step toward realizing career goals, but they often discover that the process of writing distinctive application essays that define themselves and their career goals can be hard work. Some really struggle to make the link between where they have been professionally and how that path links logically to their career goals. These questions, as well as the more personal questions that ask people to reveal their values and defining experiences, also require self-reflection, which doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
This isn’t surprising. Our media-driven society is based on soundbite-sized commentary, and even newspaper and magazine articles get shorter and shorter. I call it the “Twitterizing” of communication, where there’s just not a lot of room for depth.
That’s why the blogger referred to this process of writing “from the inside out.” Having to write so succinctly forced him to dedicate serious “think time” to his goals; there were no extra words to spare. But the effort was worth it, as he submitted his essay with confidence. Similarly, most of my clients who struggled with figuring out what to write have told me how happy they were that they went through this process of clarifying their career goals and personal values, even if they admittedly weren’t thrilled about doing so in the first place. Sometimes, clients will do more research about their career goals in order to write as concretely as the schools would like. This research often becomes a path to discover niche areas of their chosen careers that really suit their experience and interest, and then they are able to write more confidently about their need for a graduate degree and their longer term career plans.
Similarly, questions about personal values and background also present an opportunity for applicants to consider their animating values, what is really important to them. This process helps the school get to know them better, and to envision how they will fit in with the school’s own personality. I know most of my clients would agree that this exercise is a win-win: it creates more compelling, defined essays, and it also gives applicants a rare chance in an otherwise rushed schedule for honest self-reflection and the acquisition of self-knowledge. And that result is always a side benefit of the MBA application process.
If you would like help in this process, I would be happy to work with you!