Anatomy of a Really Bad MBA Essay- Part I

Admissions essays are designed to help you reveal your uniqueness and get your foot into that heavily guarded M.B.A. door! Yet, admissions essay questions can be very broad. For example, an admissions essay question can ask you to: “discuss the factors that influenced your career decisions,” or “discuss your career plans” or “describe why you want to obtain an M.B.A.”

Because of the open-ended nature of such questions, so many applicants write very underwhelming, open-ended answers—a.k.a. really bad M.B.A. essays. Let’s explore and resolve the most common characteristics of these really bad M.B.A. essays.

1. Rambling – If you read your M.B.A. essay and find that it lacks a linear progression, i.e. a beginning, middle, and end, then your essay is likely rambling. So often, we, as admissions counselors, can sniff out desperation in an essay, because the applicant is attempting to fit in every award and T.M.I. experience in his or her essay. The essay can start with a trip to Asia, for example, then ramble on to an undergraduate experience, then discuss some abstract business theory, then jump to a personal struggle, then discuss an award, then finally—as usual: describe just how amazing, incredible, and excellent a particular M.B.A. program is, before practically begging for acceptance.

How to Fix  – Have a beginning, middle, and end. For the mathematically inclined applicants out there, here’s another way to put it: make sure that your essay follows the diagram below.

Where “s” stands for sentence, ensure that s5, logically follows s4, which logically follows s3, which logically follows s2, which logically follows s1. All your sentences must follow logically. Think of a relay race. The first sentence passes the baton to the second sentence, which passes the baton to the third sentence, and so on.

Where “P” stands for paragraph, ensure that P5 logically follows P4, which logically follows P3, which logically follows P2, which logically follows P1. All your paragraphs must logically, sometimes chrono-logically, follow each other.

Stay tuned to read more about “Really Bad M.B.A. Essays” in Part II!

By Penn & Paper, the premier editing and admissions counseling service. MBA Podcaster listeners receive up to $100 off Penn & Paper MBA services (code: winning).

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