MBA Application Essay Facts: True or False?

This guest blog post by Linda Abraham, president and founder of, gives you the chance to test your MBA admissions IQ!

Fact #1: Essays are read by machines, not people.

False! If MBA application essays were run through machines, then all you’d need to do is string together a list of keywords to prove your abilities as a future businessperson. However, writing words like “leadership,” “management,” and “success” will mean nothing to a real, live person if they’re not explained and backed up with stories of personal experience. Adcom readers are people (that’s right, just like you and me) who can actually think and feel; they want you to SHOW, not just TELL, that you are an effective leader, with strong management experience, who is cut out for success. They want to hear stories and they want to be moved. They, unlike a machine, will be able to sense a passionate voice, the depth and emotion behind those buzzwords. They will be able to identify an essay written for a computer…and they won’t like it. Write with your human reader in mind, with lively, rich, and meaningful prose.

Fact #2: Even applicants with perfect GMAT scores sometimes get rejected from top MBA programs.

True! While a perfect GMAT score and a high GPA will certainly help your case for acceptance, it won’t guarantee anything. Adcom members are looking for more than just high stats when putting together the next class at their b-school. Furthermore, if stats were all that they cared about, then there’d be no need for application essays or letters of recommendation. These other components offer more of a complete picture of you are – as a person, student, and businessperson – in a way that test scores simply can’t.

Yes, the adcom readers do look at your stats. And yes, they judge you on them. And yes, if they are too low, then they may even reject you (after all, the scores DO reflect your ability to succeed in b-school, at least to some degree). But, on the other hand, if ALL you have are stats, and your essays are boring and lusterless and lack substance, then you won’t stand out, you won’t show that you have what it takes to contribute to the class or program, and you probably won’t make the cut.

Fact #3: Your application essays should present you as a perfect specimen of the human species.

False! Your essay should paint a picture of who you are, not who you WISH you were. Your essay should read more like a human interest story than like a piece of fiction. Nobody wants to read about the mythical, super-human you, but about the human being that you actually are. After all, flaws make you real, and the adcoms want to get to know the real you so they can determine if and how you’ll contribute to the next b-school class. Fill your MBA essays with stories – stories of struggles, stories of growth, and stories of triumph. Show how you’ve fallen, and show how you’ve picked yourself up. Of course, you don’t want to overdo it on the failure front – a laundry list of weaknesses will do nothing but convince them that you are…well…a weak candidate. Instead, express who you are and present your rich and valuable experiences – this is the stuff of good essays.

By Linda Abraham, president and founder of, the premier admissions consultancy and essay editing company that has helped applicants around the world gain admissions to over 450+ top schools since 1994. Linda is also the author of the soon to be published book, MBA Admission for Smarties.

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