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MBA – Writing essays

Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated

Part of the MBA application procedure is that you need to write a couple of essays. It is up to the university to decide how many essays they require, and sometimes the candidate can also decide to add an extra essay of just skip that opportunity. In an essay you will be asked a question and they expect an answer on 1-2 pages or with a maximum amount of words. While I know how to write an essay, it is still worth the effort to get some good books so you know what they expect from you.

Food for thought before starting the journey to your MBA admission

In the picture above you can see the four books I am using to write my essays. All books cover more than just the essays; they also explain how to decide on which university/program to choose, how to build a good profile, what to expect from the admission process, and how to prepare for interviews. But since I already passed those stations I am now only focussing on the essays.

No need to buy all four books since they all tell about the same story.

When going through the books I was hoping for new insights in each and every book as happened when going through GMAT books. If one book explained something in one way, I was hoping for a different point of view in the second book and another perspective in the third. As you can already guess by now, this was not the case. Each and every book told about the same.

Regarding writing an essay I can summarize the four books in two points. First of all it is important to consider diligently what you want to communicate. One books calls this your “brand”, another calls it a “marketing campaign”. Secondly it is important how you communicate your unique self. Even if you have a good brand, it will be wasted if you write the most boring essay in history.

Finding your unique selling points and sell them to the admission committee is called a “marketing campaign” in this book.

Building a brand is something that takes time and a lot of self-reflection. Everybody stands out in one way or the other, and if you stand out in a positive way you might want to point this out to the admission committee. If you stand out in a negative way, you might want to keep it to yourself.

It took be quite some time to figure out what my brand should be. The most obvious thing that is special about me is the color of my skin. Most people studying in Thailand will be Asian, so being Caucasian is special. But since this is not an accomplishment it is not something I can write an essay about (like how hard it was for me to become Caucasian, and while most people told me not to do it, I continued on my journey and fought adversity to reach my destiny).

SOARS: Situation – Obstacle – Action – Results – So what?

The style of writing is also very important in your essays. You want it to be personal so it can’t apply to every prospective student, and you might want to make it an interesting read. In the book “The best business schools’ admission secrets” they use the acronym “SOARS” (not SARS) for writing an essay. This simply means: Situation – Obstacle – Action – Results – So what. So you write about a situation from your past, explain why you had problems in that situation, give examples on how you handled those problems, and finish with what the results of your actions were. And finally you also explain why this was special, why it mattered, and what it meant for you as a person.

So far I have written two essays and I got ideas already for two more essays (4 essays are  required in total). It will take me another week to finish those other two essays and then it will be time to let others read them also. When someone else reads them they will always spot spelling errors and strangely worded sentences. So it is recommended to let someone proof-read them before sending the essays in.