So how are MBA applications changing?
Some schools have added new components to their MBA application – like the Kellogg School of Management’s new mandatory video essay – or removed, reduced, or made optional portions of the essay segment. Why the new formats and new lengths? Soojin Kwon, director of admissions at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, told US News & World Report: “So many people were spending a lot of time on the essays and probably not as much time thinking about the other things…the whole purpose of the essay and the interview is to just get a better understanding of where they’re coming from and where they want to go to. And I don’t need to read 1,000 words, 2,000 words, to understand that.”
So how does an applicant get these new changes to work to his or her advantage? The prospect of a shorter essay – or one in a completely different format – can be daunting. But with the right attitude and approach, these new MBA admissions essays can actually provide a significant advantage.
In her blog, Kwon wrote that “our total maximum word count has been reduced by 450 words, and hopefully you’ll be able to use that found time to craft the most compelling essays possible.”
How does the MBA applicant adapt?
Avi Gordon, is the author of MBA Admissions Strategy: from Profile Building to Essay Writing. In his opinion, the most important things for an MBA applicant to remember while writing an essay or MBA cover letter–especially in one that is short, and therefore in which every word must be made to have the maximum impact – are as follows:
• DO remember to check spelling and grammar
• DO actually respond to the question
• DO write several drafts of each essay
• DO tell stories from actual work experience
• DO make sure that you accurately express your motivations and overall fit for the program
• DON’T praise the school (they know they’re good)
• DON’T repeat items on your résumé
• DON’T denigrate anyone or any organization
• DON’T whine about life’s obstacles or blame others
• DON’T state the obvious — if you are talking about water you needn’t add that it is also wet
Remember: keep your MBA cover letter and admissions essays unique
Jia Ma is IMBA marketing and admissions director at Beijing’s School of Economics and Management. He reflects that, “candidates always impress me most by [delivering] quick and genuine answers with great wisdom or humor.” The essay is one of the best opportunities for an MBA applicant to truly showcase character and distinguish him or herself as a valuable candidate.
That’s why it’s important to avoid uniform MBA cover letters and MBA admissions essays, despite the temptation to re-use them – particularly when other aspects of the MBA application process, such as GMAT preparation, appear to demand more time and attention.
“Standardized letters sent out to different schools are really obvious,” says Dirk Buyens, academic dean at Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School. “They show a lack of dedication.” Essay space is not for reiterating information easily gleaned elsewhere in your MBA application; it is for highlighting the fit between the MBA applicant and the school. Be sure to craft each MBA cover letter and essay with the school and program you are applying to in mind.
Most importantly, says Lynn Thornber, marketing and development coordinator at Durham Business School, “A failure to properly address the question asked is probably one of the most common mistakes, along with too much embellishment.” Since space is at a premium, now more than ever it is necessary to practice succinct and thoughtful expression.