How to Turn “Boring” to “Brilliant” When Crafting a Business School Essay

In “Anatomy of a Really Bad M.B.A. Essay (Part Three),” we discussed some of the clues that reveal you’ve written a really bad essay. One clue was:

You lack excitement after you’ve read your essay a number of times!

Sure, you can take a breather after working on your personal statement for hours, but when you return to it, you should still get a few goose bumps. If you don’t, and you feel your essay is just one boring piece of gook, here are some sure-fire ways to fix the problem:

Stop preaching. When writing a narrative, the phrase “show, don’t tell” rings true. Describing a situation is much more interesting and effective than pontificating about it. So, for example, don’t pontificate about the “general existence of various technologies in the business world.” Describe to us the “dark blue ink that glistened from your technology award after you’d spent 200 nights on the floor of your tiny internship cubicle, vowing to complete your now patented robot.” See the difference?

Stop pretending. It’s fairly simple: if you find that you’re stuck with nothing impressive to write about yourself, chances are that you’re trying to come across as someone other than yourself. In that case, your words may appear guarded and stiff when they land on paper. They won’t dance; they won’t move. They’ll fall flat—and be boring. Thus, when you write, don’t pretend to be someone else. Just perform your true self.

Stop assuming. If you assume the admissions reader knows the importance of certain accolades, organizations, cultures, or even personal experiences that inform your M.B.A. essay, lots of meaning will get lost. You’ll risk making a connection with that reader. So, express your thoughts more transparently. If you do, they’ll go from boring to brilliant, in an instant.

By Penn & Paper, the premier editing and admissions counseling service.

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