Eight Tips for Crafting a Winning MBA Essay

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You stare at a blank screen. Your MBA essay awaits. You know the admissions committee can make or break your future. You can only write one page max. How do you encapsulate your life and professional career in such a short script? We’ve listed some helpful hints below to help you in your endeavor.

Don’t Brag

You chose your MBA school. Now, you want to write why you are better than the other applicants. Bad idea. State your accolades with grace. Offer unique experiences. Mention if you spent a summer as a fry cook and how you learned to apply it to future goals. Admissions find these compelling. Martin Brand, senior managing director of The Blackstone Group, wrote about his stint as an ambulance driver in his admissions essay.

Avoid Stock Answers

Creating a stilted essay is not impressing anyone. Sentences like, “I am the ideal candidate for your great program,” are stale. And please don’t start your essay with, “I was born in …” Humor is key, but use it sparingly.

Say No to Tangents

This may seem obvious, but stick to the questions asked by the admissions board in the essay. Many applicants fall off the radar because they think adding topics look interesting. Tell your personal story, but frame it within the specific questions.

Keep the Word Count Down

Image via Flickr by Jeremy Erickson

You did it! Your essay is brilliant. And it’s only … 5,000 words. No admissions board will read a long-winded waxing of your life. Most essays are 500 words at most. Whittle it down. Make sure the grammar is 100 percent correct. Invest in a superior grammar check program or an essay editing service. Ask friends or colleagues for a second set of eyes. Any misspelled word or awkward sentences will send your essay to the wastebasket.

Lead Well

Opening lines are crucial. It sets up the flow of your essay. Use an anecdote or a clever aspiration. Jason Kreuziger, Vice President at Summit Partners, opened his essay with, “My highest career aspiration is to ring the opening bell at the NASDAQ as my company celebrates.” Answer the essay questions in the introduction and then flesh them out in the following paragraphs. Restate these goals and questions in your conclusion.


Image via Flickr by Jeffrey James Pacres

Comprise an accolades notebook that goes beyond your resume. Mention if you’re a world traveler or bi-lingual. Don’t rush once essay questions are available. The typical written average for a first-time MBA essay is 40 hours. You don’t need perfection at the get-go. Let the writing spill out. It’s much easier to go back and edit than to try to write each sentence immaculately. Revise at least three times.

Your MBA essay is possibly the most important piece of writing in your life. Be clever but don’t brag. Be concise but don’t bore. Prepare but don’t overthink. Answer the right questions. You’ve made it this far. Don’t skimp on that one page. Admissions hold them in high regard. So should you.