10 Biggest Changes to the 2017-18 Common Application | Part 2

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What the 2017-2018 Common App Changes Mean for You – Part 2

Welcome back to Part 2 of our blog that highlights ten of the biggest changes to this year’s Common Application. In Part 1, we revealed tips on who exactly needs to complete the new Courses and Grades section of the application, and the dangers of using Google Drive when transferring your essays from Google Docs into the Common App. But now, let’s turn our attention to six additional Common App changes.
5. Sex/Gender Clarifications

To be more sensitive to those students who do not comfortably fall into the male-female binary, the Common App no longer asks students to indicate their “sex assigned at birth” during the account creation process. Rather, on the Profile page of the application, students will be asked to bubble in either a male or female sex and then immediately be given the opportunity to clarify their gender identity in the space below.

Common App Changes

Insider’s Tip: Students have 100 characters (including spaces) to provide details about their gender identity on this optional question.

6. Two New Activity Headings

There are now 30 different activity types available on the Activities page of the application, thanks to the addition of internship and social justice options on the dropdown menu.

Common App Changes to Activity Headings

Insider’s Tip: Think critically about whether your volunteer efforts would best be categorized as community service or social justice on the dropdown menu. Picking up trash in your local park or spending time with seniors in a nursing home are prime examples of community service. Raising money for new immigrants in your community or serving meals to the homeless illustrate a commitment to human rights and equality.

7. Easier Activity Removal

Staying right here on the Activities page, students will notice a little trash can icon in the bottom right-hand corner of each activities listing. If you need to delete an entire activity, simply click on the trash can. (You might be wondering how this is an improvement on last year’s application because it seems so basic, right? Trying to explain the old method would take far too long, so let’s all just be glad that this process has been streamlined!)

Common App Changes Activity Removal

Insider’s Tip: Once you delete an activity, you cannot get it back. None of the information you previously entered will be saved, so think twice before you remove it.

8. Two New Personal Essay Prompts (and Three Revisions)

We love the two new essay choices available to students on the Common App, especially number six, which reads: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? To learn more about the changes to this year’s essay options, and to determine which one might be the best choice for you, be sure to read our blog and take this quiz.

9. Advisor Account

Students who would like a trusted adult (such as a mentor, college counselor, or teacher) to review a copy of their application now have two options. As in previous years, students can opt to share their Common App username and password with the advisor, or—thanks to a new feature of the Common App this year—students can invite the adult to create an advisor account via the Recommenders and FERPA page of the application. There are pros and cons to both of these options. While some advisors prefer to proofread applications by directly logging into their students accounts, be aware that by giving an advisor your login credentials, you’re essentially granting them full and unrestricted access to the application itself. If they make any changes to your application or mistakenly delete an entry, you’ll need to review and potentially correct those errors yourself. On the other hand, by allowing an advisor to see a read-only version of your application, they won’t be able to conduct a line-by-line review of each Common App page and catch potential omissions.

Common App Changes Advisor Account

Insider’s Tip: Students can invite up to three advisors at a time to review a read-only version of their application, and this invitation can be revoked at any time by clicking on the trash can icon.

10. Word Count Limits

Thank you, Common App, for developing this oh-so-simple tool for showing students the minimum and maximum word counts for all essays. Sometimes colleges neglect to inform applicants of a suggested word limit (leading to frantic questions of “how ‘short’ should a ‘short paragraph’ be?”), and at other times the text box actually provides more room than the essay instructions would imply. Now students can easily see both the high and low end ranges for all text box entries.

Common App Changes to Word Counts

Insider’s Tip: Just because a text box may allow you to exceed the recommended maximum word limit, don’t be tempted to go overboard. “Roughly 250 words” can comfortably mean up to 275 words, but submitting an essay of 300 words may be pushing it.

The Common App has done it again! Every year they continue to make practical and useful enhancements to their platform that all seek to enrich the user experience. And students can expect to see continued improvements year after year, especially now that there’s another major player competing in the college application market—the Coalition Application. But one million students can’t be wrong. Thanks to the dynamic versatility of the application, the wide range of colleges that accept it, and its easy-to-use interface, the Common Application continues to be our number one choice for students applying to college.

UT McCombs School Fall 2018 MBA Essay Tips

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The UT McCombs School of Business is a globally recognized MBA program, located in Austin, Texas, a center of technology and business for the region.

When approaching these essay questions think about the reasons you are pursuing an MBA, particularly at McCombs. Thorough school research will help you come up with specifics, by taking to current or former students, visiting campus, or attending admissions events.

Stacey Kammerdiener, Senior Texas Full-Time MBA Admissions Officer advises, “While it may be tempting, do us (and yourself) a favor and avoid the snooze-fest/shock-factor extremes. Instead, approach your essays genuinely and with reflection.” More advice can be found at the Texas MBA Insider blog.

ESSAY ONE

Introduce yourself.
Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.

• Write an essay (250 words), OR
• Share a video introduction (one minute)

For an open-ended essay with a creative option (the video) it can be daunting to think of a topic. Rather than focusing on how you are going to communicate, start thinking about what you want to communicate to the Texas MBA admissions committee by introducing yourself to your new study group.

The best essays will dive deep into your motivations and aspirations, perhaps getting into your cultural background, formative moments in your life and friends, family and colleagues who have influenced you. To identify one or two key stories you may want to tell, think about those pivotal moments of change in your life.

For many people the transition from high school to college and from college to work led to personal change. Others had formative childhood experiences or experiences that led to shifts in perspective like travel or living outside your home country. Any one of these moments could be a good way to illustrate who you are and what motivates you.

Once you have identified the content of your essay you can decide how to present it. A video could give you the opportunity to add elements of emotion, such as humor, that are harder to convey in writing. A video also allows you to include graphics, photos or other visual elements. If your story fits better into a written narrative you may choose the written essay instead.

If you choose a video essay you will still want to write a script for your video. Think about the bullet points you want to cover, and any important points you need to convey. If you decide to talk into the camera, rehearsing will be especially important, and consider having a friend or family member there so you can talk to a person instead of the camera. If you are able to edit the video after you record footage it will be easier to keep it smooth and on topic. Either way, make sure you take the time to record several takes of the video content so you can choose the best one to submit to McCombs.

ESSAY TWO

Picture yourself at graduation. Describe how you spent your two years as a Texas MBA student, and how that experience helped to prepare you for the post-MBA world. (500 words)

This essay is your opportunity to demonstrate strong fit with the Texas MBA program. As part of your homework before starting this set of essays you have hopefully learned as much as possible about the school, now you can bring in your own aspirations and goals. Use your imagination to think about how you might describe your MBA experience at graduation. You’ll likely have experienced both professional and personal growth, and met interesting people who will be part of your lifelong network.

To help you get started, research some of the unique opportunities at McCombs like the Venture Labs, if you have entrepreneurial dreams, and The MBA+ Program, with opportunities to work with influential companies through a variety of touch points. Being part of the city of Austin is another unique benefit to the program that you may want to consider in the context of your background and goals.

For example, perhaps you were interested in working for a major technology firm to learn product management skills to use in starting your own business. While at McCombs you might have tested ideas with the Venture Labs, and also consulted for major companies like Adobe or HP to learn how large companies worked. These experiences were likely formative as you made career plans.

Don’t forget the personal – McCombs has an active and engaged student culture with many student organizations you likely joined. And your classmates and friends you made in the program were definitely an influence as well.

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Which MBA Programs Should Be On Your List?

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Outside the Wharton School on the University of Pennsylvania campus

Many students who are applying to business school know they want to go to a top school, but don’t know how to come up with a target list. You might have an idea from rankings, which are a place to see the names of schools, but I’ll say it right here: It’s not useful to just go through the rankings list and pick the top 4 or 5. You can be more thoughtful than that. But how do you begin?

10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Start Your List of Schools

Here are 10 things you can do right now to figure out which school should be on your long list. Unless you absolutely hate a school because of its location, or you think everyone you’ve ever met from that school is a weenie, keep an open mind about schools you simply want to research. It doesn’t mean you have to apply, or if you get in, go. But it helps you clarify your thinking.

Ask trusted friends

Ideally, you want to ask friends who know what they are talking about, who have applied, rather than those who are just reading rumors on the internet. Work colleagues, alumni of your undergraduate school all might have some insights from their own experiences.

Think of people you know and admire who hold an MBA

Ask them why they chose that school and how it helped them become who they are.

Look up people in your target field and see where they went to business school

LinkedIn has a variety of free ways you can search to figure that out (just make sure you put in “MBA” a search parameter). Or find the profiles of executives at companies you like and deconstruct their career paths.

Pick a school, any school, and look at their employment reports

It’s worth it to wander around the career section of a school’s website See who recruits at the school, check out top employers, dig into the actual names of companies that employ students. Also, LinkedIn can help you here – especially if you know the right tricks.

Go to in-person events.

Because it is summertime when I am writing this, going to class is usually not an option. But every business school goes on international and national road trips. These incredibly worthwhile presentations include a mix of admissions officers, current students, alumni, and sometimes senior faculty. The best way to get a seat is to get on the school mailing list so they can email you details of all upcoming events. Let me say that again in italics: The best way to get a seat is to get on the school mailing list so they can email you details of all upcoming events. Note: you will not get dinged from a school if you register to a big event and cannot make it.

Read through school websites.

Not just the overall marketing material and student voices, which are helpful, but look at the academics. Look at courses, concentrations, special research centers, and initiatives. Many schools have special centers for entrepreneurship and social innovation; but what about real estate, health care, luxury goods, data analytics, or global operations?

Look at the school profiles.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, a school profile gives the demographics and breakdown of an entering class. Importantly, you’ll find the average (and hopefully range of) grades, scores, years of work experience, geographic breakdown, previous industry, and more fun statistics to see if you are in the ball park for that school. Be realistic, but don’t consider these numbers gospel. In the case of GPAs, for example, schools are more interested in the quality of your transcript as well as the absolute number.

Look at all-in costs and probabilities of financial aid.

Combine this with their work on current costs of business school, and you might add or subtract some schools.

Look at a map.

Even in this global world, location does matter. But do keep an open mind. Most schools are right near major airports, so you can explore and interview without too much trouble. Still, location tends to have a visceral pull, especially if a spouse or significant other are coming along for the ride. (And yes, ask for their input.)

Look at rankings.

Of course, they matter. But be smart about them. They are imperfect, and they shouldn’t drive your entire decision. Or you will drive yourself crazy, and life is so much better than that. A

Credit: Quants

Wharton To Ask Rec Writers For ‘Essays’

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Wharton School operations and innovation management professor Christian Terwiesch teaching class

After a major review, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has decided to ask recommenders of its MBA applicants to effectively write two short essays on the candidates they are recommending.

The changes, effective with the upcoming 2017-2018 admissions cycle, occurred after the school surveyed more than 1,200 writers of recommendation letters and asked about their experience with the process. Vice Dean Maryellen Reilly, who deemed the overall “significant,” said they were being made “in an effort to get a deeper understanding of a candidate’s personal characteristics and their impact on others throughout their career.”

It’s a major changeup, in part, because business schools have been reducing the number and the length of essays for MBA applicants for several years now. At least on the surface, it seems ironic that a school would now decide to essentially ask recommendation writers for a pair of 300-word essays. The move also comes not long after several schools have moved to a common rec letter format to make it easier for recommenders to provide support for their candidates to several schools.

IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK FROM ADMISSION CONSULTANTS MIXED

But Wharton ostensibly thought it could improve on the current system after asking rec writers for their perspectives. “Utilizing their valuable feedback, in conjunction with conversations with writers at a variety of companies and Wharton stakeholders, we have revised and improved how recommenders provide information on who a candidate is both personally and within an organization,” wrote Deputy Vice Dean Maryellen Reilly in a blog post about the change.

Several MBA admission consultants, however, weren’t nearly as enthusiastic about the change, largely because they saw it as an additional burden on recommenders. That could encourage more recommenders to ask applicants to write the essays for their approval. “For the personality traits, the good news is that Wharton is trying to get authentic and thoughtful responses from recommenders, rather than literally ‘check-the-box,’” says Betsy Massar, founder of Master Admissions. “Because there are truly no right or wrong answers, hopefully, students won’t be as anxious about not being top at everything. For the qualitative questions, It’s great that the essay question specifically says up front, “give examples.” Maybe that will bring more substance into some of the high-praise-but-fluffy recommendations that don’t differentiate candidates in the least.

“On the downside,” she adds, “moving away from the common application questions that have been asked by other top schools really does put more of a burden on the recommender. That has all sorts of repercussions that increases anxiety for the student and might even mean that Wharton loses some applicants. Not sure that’s an optimal outcome for anyone.”

APPLICANTS MORE LIKELY TO SUCCUMB TO ‘YOU-WRITE-IT-I’LL SIGN-IT’

Linda Abraham, founder and CEO of Accepted.com, agreed. “Even those inclined to write their own recs are more likely to succumb to the time-saving temptation of you-write-it-I’ll-sign-it if they have to write two additional, distinctive responses to the open questions posed in the Wharton rec,” she says. “This would be especially true for applicants applying to more schools.”

Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, sees an upside and downside to the change. “Unquestionably, relative to other schools, Wharton will get more thoughtful and colorful letters from those who take the recommendation process seriously – the questions almost force that outcome,” he says. “Unfortunately, they may also serve as a catalyst for those recommenders who may not want to put the time in and who may not put the time in and decide to shirk their responsibilities altogether. Because a truly excellent letter of recommendation can be a very powerful differentiator for any applicant, we strongly advise our clients to meet with their recommenders and discuss the process and more so what it means to write a standout letter.

“In doing so, we always advise our clients to be ready to diplomatically push back against a boss who says “write it yourself.” There is a reason why the schools want recommendation letters – they want insight that an applicant just can’t objectively and compellingly state about themselves. So, we may emphasize an extra level of preparedness for pushback to our Wharton applicants, because it will serve them well. They will have a better chance of getting in if they can persuade their recommenders to embrace the process.”

Credit: Poetsandquants

Tuck’s Own Insider Guide To Its MBA Essays

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Tuck School of Business

These days just about every business school has a blog or two that regularly dispenses advice to MBA applicants. And, of course, there is no shortage of places you can go on the web to get perspectives on exactly how to respond to a specific essay question at a given school, whether it’s the blog of an admissions consultant or even Poets&Quants.

But it’s rare when that advice is as clear and concise as the insider’s guide published recently by Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business which has long had a reputation as one of a handful of schools that really get to know the candidates who apply there.

As the admission folks at Tuck put it, “Within days of publishing these essays, there will inevitably be sources willing to help you analyze Tuck’s questions, as well as our thought process behind them. Instead of relying on second-hand advice, here’s all the guidance you need to write an excellent essay—straight from the admissions committee.”

Here’s how Tuck is helping applicants do their best MBA application:

1) (Required) What are your short and long-term goals? Why is an MBA a critical next step toward achieving those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically? (500 words)

This question is as straightforward as it seems. Pursuing your MBA is a big commitment. There has got to be a good reason for this, right? We want to know that reason. What do you hope to be doing after graduating from an MBA program? How does your path thus far play into that? If the logical path isn’t clear, make sure you tell us why you’re making this transition.

Also, we want details! You want to lead a company, make decisions, problem solve, help people? Great, but does that mean consulting or product management? Healthcare or technology? What companies interest you? What roles do MBAs play in those fields? Pulling out these details will not only make you a more competitive applicant, but will also give you a great foundation when presented with all your career possibilities. Business school is great for exploring different industries, roles, and companies, but without a plan it can be overwhelming.

As for the final part of the question, every MBA program is different. What about Tuck specifically will help you get from where you are now to where you want to be in 3, 5, or 15 years? As an admissions committee, we have only 285 seats to fill every year. We want to make sure we’re offering this incredible opportunity to those who 1) understand why they’re in an MBA program to begin with, and 2) are excited about spending two transformative years at Tuck.

What programs, classes, clubs, treks, or activities does Tuck offer that will help you achieve your personal and professional goals? It’s true that we like people who are enthusiastic about Tuck—we want students who will dive in, not blend in! However, that doesn’t mean that you should try to flatter your way in. There are many, many opportunities at Tuck—you owe it to yourself to do some research and figure out those that are truly most appealing to you.

Other tips:

If you can take Tuck’s name out of this essay and replace it with another school’s name and it still makes sense, then you need to go back and show you know what makes Tuck (and the other MBA programs you’re considering) unique. We don’t want a laundry list of classes, clubs, or qualities at Tuck. We know what Tuck has. We want to know that you understand why those things are meaningful to you. Be authentic, be straightforward, be specific, and tell a story that makes sense.

2) (Required) Tuck’s mission is to educate wise leaders to better the world of business. Wisdom encompasses the essential aptitudes of confident humility, about what one does and does not know; empathy, towards the diverse ideas and experiences of others; and judgment, about when and how to take risks for the better.

With Tuck’s mission in mind, and with a focus on confident humility, tell us about a time you:
received tough feedback, experienced failure, or disappointed yourself or others. How did you respond, and what did you learn about yourself as a result? (500 words)

Life isn’t all successes; there are plenty of failures in there too. We are not trying to bring in a class of perfect people. We’re looking for people who are self-aware, growth minded, and humble, people who recognize those less-than-perfect moments or traits in themselves and then figure out where to go from there. That’s why we focus on confident humility.

Tuck is small in size and big in collaboration. It’s not about being right, being the best, or winning. We don’t seek success at the expense of others. You won’t blend in or be anonymous. You will work with diverse people, with different ideas, perspectives, and experiences that shape them. In business school (and life!), you will be one smart and talented person among many smart and talented people.

We love that our students listen and learn from each other in class and over dinner, that they lean on their study group mates in areas where they’re less strong, and that recruiters highlight how Tuckies stand out as being able to work well with just about everyone.

We’re looking for honesty in this essay. This is not a trick question. We’ve all received tough feedback, failed, or disappointed someone. Show us personal accountability and action. And like the first essay, details are important. Be specific enough that we get a clear picture of the situation, the result, and your role in it. Finally, don’t get to the end and forget the last part of our question: How did you respond, and what did you learn about yourself as a result?

Other thoughts: Stick to one particular example instead of a string of several instances, and avoid being too vague. Consider both your immediate reaction and your reaction once given time to think and reflect.

3) (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.

Optional is optional! We are NOT docking you for an empty optional essay. Actually, quite the opposite; if you give us an extra five paragraphs to read and it’s not necessary, we will question your judgment or your ability to express yourself succinctly elsewhere. For example, you do not need to further declare your love for Tuck here when you can articulate that in the first essay and the interview.

Reasons you should use this space:

Explaining an unusual recommender, or why you didn’t include your current direct supervisor.
Explaining a particularly incongruent semester/class from undergrad, or a poor record overall.
Anything else that may need additional explanation—as in, without it we will not understand the true context behind something.
A good rule here is to keep it to a reasonable length. If you’re unsure if you should explain something, err on the side of including it—just do so as succinctly as possible.

4) (To be completed by all reapplicants) How have you strengthened your candidacy since you last applied? Please reflect on how you have grown personally and professionally. (500 words)

This question is very straightforward, but similarly to the optional essay, try not to repeat a bunch of stuff from elsewhere in the application. Naturally, it might happen here and there, but use your best judgment. If you received reapplicant feedback, you should specifically address that feedback—all of it.

Word Counts: All noted word counts are meant as a guideline. While we’re not going to count every word, if your essay is exceptionally short, you either haven’t explained something fully, or simply did not put in much effort; if your essay is exceptionally long, you should consider revising it to be more succinct.

Credit: Poetandquants

MBA Essay Tips

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Most graduate business programs require applicants to submit at least one MBA essay as part of the application process. Admissions committees use essays, along with other application components, to determine whether or not you are a good fit for their business school. A well-written MBA essay can increase your chances of acceptance and help you stand out among other applicants.

Choosing an MBA Essay Topic

In most cases, you will be assigned a topic or instructed to answer a specific question.

However, there are some schools that allow you to choose a topic or select from a short list of provided topics.

If you are given the opportunity to choose your own MBA essay topic, you should make strategic choices that allow you to highlight your best qualities. This may include an essay that demonstrates your leadership ability, an essay that showcases your ability to overcome obstacles, or an essay that clearly defines your career goals.

Chances are, you will be asked to submit multiple essays – usually two or three. You may also have the opportunity to submit an “optional essay.” Optional essays are usually guideline and topic free, which means you can write about anything you want. Find out when to use the optional essay.

Whatever topic you choose, be sure to come up with stories that support the topic or answer a specific question. Your MBA essay should be focused and feature you as the central player.

Common MBA Essay Topics

Remember, most business schools will provide you with a topic to write on. Although topics can vary from school to school, there are a few common topics/questions that can be found on many business school applications. They include:

  • Why attend this business school?
  • What are your career goals?
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals?
  • What will you do with your degree?
  • How will a degree help you achieve your goals?
  • Why do you want an MBA?
  • What matters to you most and why?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is your biggest accomplishment?
  • What is your biggest regret?
  • How have you failed in the past?
  • How do you respond to adversity?
  • What challenges have you overcome?
  • Who do you admire most and why?
  • Who are you?
  • How will you contribute to this program?
  • Why do you have leadership potential?
  • How do you explain weaknesses in your academic record?

Answer the Question

One of the biggest mistakes that MBA applicants make is not answering the question they are asked. If you are asked about your professional goals, then professional goals – not personal goals – should be the focus of the essay. If you are asked about your failures, you should discuss mistakes you have made and lessons you have learned – not accomplishments or success.

Stick to the topic and avoid beating around the bush. Your essay should be direct and pointed from start to finish. It should also focus on you. Remember, an MBA essay is meant to introduce you to the admissions committee. You should be the main character of the story.

It is okay to describe admiring someone else, learning from someone else, or helping someone else, but these mentions should support the story of you – not cover it up.

See another MBA essay mistake to avoid.

Basic Essay Tips

As with any essay assignment, you’ll want to carefully follow any instructions you are given. Again, answer the question assigned to you – keep it focused and concise. It is also important to pay attention to word counts. If you are asked for a 500-word essay, you should aim for 500 words, rather than 400 or 600. Make every word count.

Your essay should also be readable and grammatically correct. The entire paper should be free of errors. Do not use special paper or a crazy font. Keep it simple and professional. Above all, give yourself enough time to write your MBA essays.

You don’t want to have to slop through them and turn in something that’s less than your best work simply because you had to meet a deadline.

See a list of essay style tips.

More Essay Writing Tips

  • Take time to reflect on yourself, your goals, your accomplishments, your strengths, your weaknesses, etc. before you begin writing your essay.
  • Research the school until you have a good understanding of the school’s mission, culture, programs, and approach.
  • Create an outline to organize your ideas before you start writing.
  • Use anecdotes and personal stories to make your essay original.
  • Don’t be too academic – an MBA essay isn’t a term paper. It is a marketing packet designed to introduce you.
  • Be specific and detailed. Use examples. Support your statements.
  • Keep it real. You want to impress, but honesty is key.
  • Don’t be afraid to be creative. If you’re asked where you see yourself five years from now, you can avoid the standard answer and write a diary entry for that day in the future or pretend that you’re telling your children about your first job after grad school.
  • Make your essay interesting. Some admissions reps read more than 1,000 essays answering the same question. Hook them with the intro and keep them interested throughout to make your essay stand out among everyone else’s.

Remember that the #1 rule when writing an MBA essay is to answer the question/stay on topic. When you have finished your essay, ask at least two people to proofread it and guess the topic or question you were trying to answer. If they do not guess correctly, you should revisit the essay and adjust the focus until your proofreaders can easily tell what the essay is supposed to be about.

Source: www.thoughtco.com