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How to write great essays?

December 15, 2011

in Essays, MBA Application, Post GMAT written by Team Aristotle (2 comments)

For most students, writing the admission essays can be as arduous a task as the preparation for the GMAT. Essays form an incredibly important component of the application package. Essays along with LORs tell the admission committee about the person you are-the different experiences you possess, the aspirations you have, the personality traits which make you unique, the value you can add to their school. The essays are windows through which the Admission committee gets to see you, know about you. So you need to make sure that these windows through which the Adcom see you portray your candidature in the best possible way. Become a perfectionist while writing essays and settle for nothing less than “killer” essays.Here’s an article providing you a guideline and a checklist which you may want to keep in mind while writing those “killer” essays or you may want to to revisit this article when you’re done writing the essays.

1.Relevancy: Some of the essays I have seen are, for the most part, incredibly well written. However,while writing an essay, sometimes a person gets so engrossed in the writing process itself that some irrelevant information,lines or paragraphs unintentionally make their way into the essay. And since a candidate is writing the essay himself, he’s not able to dispassionately judge whether a paragraph is relevant or not. Keep asking yourself whether what you are writing or what you have written is relevant to the questions being asked or not ?

2.Structure: Focus on giving a coherent structure to your essay.Some essays just lack coherency and it seems as though a bunch of disparate thoughts and ideas have been clubbed together without any link among them.After you are done writing and revising your essay, check whether all parts of the essay are rightly connected. Ask yourself whether there is a smooth transition from one idea to another,whether the sentences are linked together by the right connecting words,does the essay flow in a haphazard way i.e. does it look like a collection of dots or do these dots connect to make a line?

3. Language:Remember the Adcoms read some incredibly fabulously written essays. So if you’re smart and competent, your essays should convey the same about you.The essay shouldn’t be jargon laden and shouldn’t be used as a medium to display your prowess over vocabulary.Make sure that you don’t lace your essays with the word “I”. For example, here’s how a part of the essay one candidate had written read like -“I was the team leader of the XYZ team. I was taking care of their Spain Operations. I was a top performer of the company and I have received several awards”. What do the aforementioned lines tell you about the person? Excessive use of “I” signifies an egocentric attitude and is viewed negatively by the reviewers who are looking for candidates who have great team skills. Secondly, usage of dependent clauses makes the sentence structures better, logical and easier to read. The sentence above can be modified as “Working as the team leader of the NHU team, I had a strong emphasis on delivering client focused results, acknowledged by the company in the form of accolades.”

4.Word limit:One of the often asked questions is that how much can I exceed the word limit? Well, firstly the word “limit” in itself signifies that the university wants you to convey yourself in the best possible manner within that number of words. However,unless you exceed the mentioned number of words by a gross margin,the school is not going to hold penalize you. As a rule of thumb, most schools formally or informally tolerate a 10% increase in the word limit and you may want to set the maximum cap at 50. That means that for a 400 word essays, it’s perfectly acceptable to use 40 more words and for 500 to 700 length essay the cap stands at 50 words.

5.Illustrations:Incorporate illustrations and examples that substantiate what you have to say about yourself.Don’t write essays which are generic or merely use adjectives or lists your achievements.For example, just to write something like “I have always believed in hardwork and have diligently achieved my goals” without substantiating the statement doesn’t tell anything specific about you and the doesn’t help the Adcom in informing a picture about you because any damn person can use those words even if he’s nowhere close to the adjectives used. So you need to demonstrate some instances where you’ve demonstrated the qualities you talk about. Also make sure that you don’t shoot in the air instead talk about something credible which you’ve demonstrated in the past. Don’t write that you want to become a social entrepreneur post MBA when you haven’t done anything related to that yet or not have even taken any step in that direction. So the idea is that you must link your post MBA goals to what you are currently doing or what you have done in the past. “Substantiate what you say” is the rule to go by.

6.The “Story”:They say that a good essay tells a good story. While you write the essays, you have to tell YOUR story, connecting the dots in the past, reflecting on the present and making a roadmap of the future and all these things have to be beautifully linked. 

7.Feedback:Getting feedback on the essays you have written is an important part of the essay writing process. A good critique of the essay provides you incredible inputs vis-a-vis the content, structure, logical consistency and coherency of your essays. What is of importance here is to judiciously select the people(ideally two) who know you well and are competent enough to review your essays. And what more, if you share good relationship with these people, you may even ask them to edit the essays and incorporate the desired changes.

8. Plagiarism blues: Last year, a top ranking school canceled the admission and interviews of several candidates as many students had plagiarized the content for the essay from the internet and ironically the topic happened to be on “principled leadership”. So make sure that you don’t plagiarize the content from any source. There’s no harm in exploring different resources available over the internet but copying even a single line from anywhere may put you in a quagmire. By keeping the guidelines above in mind,you’d able to ensure that you don’t end up sending your dream schools sub standard or just average essays. Essay writing requires incredible amount of tenacity,and patience but is worth the effort.

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