Tackling the Essays I- Step One, Break Your Leg :-)

If you think the GMAT is tough, you obviously have not met the essays. They are 10 times more difficult.

And it’s not just the essays. The entire application form for an MBA, with all the list-your-extracurriculars-since-college stuff, is an arduous task to execute. This is partly because there are NO CORRECT ANSWERS to the questions, yet you KNOW that this is a make-or-break issue. Pressure!

Allow me to digress a bit. In late July last year, during my vacation in Europe, I broke my leg. Had this not happened, and resulted in my 2 months of house rest (I needed to wear a cast), I probably would not have written any decent essays. (Mind you, after many months of living in MBA-think, I now cringe when I read my essays). I have spoken to MBA alumni about this since. I have found that most people need at least 2 months of writing, rewriting and re-re-writing and editing and re-re-editing, to produce reasonable essays to get in to the top schools. An applicant underestimates what a good essay takes at his/her own peril.

I have never been on an Admissions committee. However, from what I have read, B-schools are looking for alumni that will advance their brand. They are looking for future leaders of the global business world. An applicant must prove he has the markings of a future success in business. Equally importantly, as a person he must sound like a b-school’s “brand”. They all also desire a diverse learning environment. This last mentioned objective naturally blows the field wide open. All sorts of profile can, and do, get in these days.

It amazes me how much clearer I see the MBA now compared to last year and there in lies the problem for applicants. Essays are first read by GA’s –i.e. second-year students. These and the Admissions staff are people who have lived and breathed “MBA-think” for at least 2 years (or even decades). In other words, their thoughts regarding the MBA are fully processed whereas the applicant probably just started thinking seriously about what an MBA is really for. This is honestly, to me. an unfair (though unavoidable) imbalance.

Of course, you could simply DIVE IN and express yourself. Many get in by doing this. However, knowing what I know now, I suggest if its hugely important to you, try to bridge this gap in perspectives by seeking a helpful alumni/student of the school to review your essays. I was fortunate enough to have used this option.