Use Your Essays Wisely: Tips From Stacy Blackman

Application Tips from MBA Admission Consultant Stacy Blackman

Use Your Essays Wisely

Business school application essays provide a good forum to explain aspects of your background that require further clarification. You will have to evaluate each situation and decide what merits additional explanation, but never assume that a member of an admissions committee will overlook part of your application. If an obvious weakness exists, it will be seen and conclusions will be made if no background is provided.

Here are 3 common issues to watch out for on your MBA application.

Low GPA: In addition to taking a class to show that you are capable of thriving in a challenging academic environment, you may want to provide some background on why your grades suffered in college. Here it is critical to be very clear on the difference between providing explanation and making excuses. You should not say that your grades were poor because the classes were very difficult. MBA programs consider their classes to be very challenging. You may be able to explain that your grades dipped due to a particular reason, for example a family emergency or health issue. You may even state that you were less mature back then.  Here, honesty is most effective. If the reason for low grades is lack of focus, talk about this and demonstrate how you have changed. In most cases, one lower grade will not require an explanation. You should not feel the need to provide details for every small mistake in your background – you are human and the admissions committee understands that.

Taking extra time to graduate: There are a number of reasons why an individual may have taken extra time to graduate from an undergraduate program. In many cases, these reasons and explanations can be appealing reflections of your interests and will allow the admissions committee to learn more about your life and activities. It can certainly be okay to take that additional time, particularly if you have a strong reason for doing so. If you took time off to be lazy, this is another opportunity to be honest and provide evidence of a more recent shift in priorities.

Changing majors: Some candidates want to explain a big shift in majors and it may make sense to do so. While switching majors is not necessarily a weakness, it can raise concerns about your focus. In most cases, there will be no concerns, but perhaps curiosity.  The admissions committee wants to understand why you made certain decisions, in order to develop a fuller picture of who you are.  There may be an interesting event that led to the change or perhaps there was just a gradual shift in interests. Your time as an undergraduate is for self discovery. Being honest about your growth is a great way for an admissions committee to learn more about you.

For more robust guidance on your MBA application essays, check out the Stacy Blackman Consulting Essay Guide Series – school specific guides with essay tips, sample essays, information on what your target schools value and more.

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