It goes without saying that essays are the most important components in the application process. Applicants cannot spend too much time on them.
Before you start writing, ensure you spend sufficient time on the groundwork. You should have a clear and concise idea of your application strategy. This process should take the following steps:
1. Carefully consider who the MBA Admission Committee (AdCom) is looking for
The essay is a form of communication. The most common mistake is to push your own agenda without an understanding of the attributes the AdCom is looking for. You can get an appreciation of the AdCom’s thoughts from various sources, such as the school website, info sessions, MBA admission experts’ comments, etc. After assimilating the information, you should create a short list of questions the AdCom may ask through the entire application process.
2. Shape the key messages you want to deliver
Once you understand what they want to know, then you can start formulating what you should say. The essay is also a form of marketing. You need to differentiate yourself from thousands of brilliant applicants; some who have founded their own companies, and some who have led hundreds of subordinates on the battlefields in Iraq. You need to shape the key messages you want to deliver to the AdCom. Each message should be backed by specific examples, facts and logic.
3. Allocate your key messages to each component
Essays are not the only place you can deliver your key messages to AdCom. Your resume, recommendation letters and interview also play the same role in the application process. You need to think about where you want to deliver each message. In other words, you shouldn’t include all the key messages in your essays. It dilutes the message and your essays become fuzzy. The MBA application process requires a comprehensive strategy. Before starting to write your essay, you need to consider all the components of the process.
These steps will produce your essay and application strategy. Just for your reference, below is the worksheet I developed before I started writing HBS essays. The format may take various shapes, but the important thing is to spend enough time on this groundwork before plunging into the writing endeavor.
Once you organize your strategy, then start writing!