In this era of 140-character Tweets, cryptic emails, and a near-total reliance on “grammar check” and “spell-check,” the patience and thoughtfulness required to plan and craft a well-written story is rarely seen. And the more time that passes since one attended school, the less creative writing he or she does. Nowhere is this decline more evident than when creating MBA admissions essays.
With this in mind, our essay-development process for MBA applicants begins with a total focus on self-discovery. Through analysis and planning, we help our clients build an inventory of potential topics and compelling examples before they even look at the school-specific essay questions. And then we start with basic, skeletal outlines to ensure that the essays will have a logical structure and reader-friendly flow. Only then do we advance into the narrative stage with actionable feedback on writing style.
There is one particular aspect of essay development that even the least talented writer should keep in mind: “personal pronouns.” Think back, if you will, to middle-school English class when you first learned about personal pronouns. As you now consider your MBA admissions essays, it’s time to put those old lessons to work.
There are 3 strategies to keep in mind when it comes to using and managing personal pronouns:
Your essays should reflect a reasonable balance between first-person singular (I, me, my) and plural (we, our, us) personal pronouns. Why? Because this will convey a balance in your candidacy between ego and empathy, between leadership and teamwork. Too much “I, me, my” indicates arrogance. Too much “we, our, us” hides your individual achievements and impact.
Second-person personal pronouns (you, your, yours, yourself) should appear rarely in MBA admissions essays. Why? Because, as an applicant, you should avoid lecturing, advising or directing the reader (i.e., admissions committee member) as to what he or she should think, understand or do. Keep the focus on yourself and your candidacy. When you see a second-person personal pronoun in your essays, just imagine that you’re pointing your finger at the reader during a conversation. If that feels inappropriate or rude, then change it.
Third-person, nonspecific personal pronouns (they, them, theirs, themselves) are essential in an essay. However, unless you make it very clear to the reader to whom you are referring when you use pronouns, it can prompt confusion — if not frustration — for the reader. So, when reviewing your narrative draft, pay particular attention the connections between the pronoun and the players.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to develop MBA admissions essays that show the b-schools that you are a strong communicator with the confidence, awareness and effectiveness to share ideas that resonate with others. If you find that your essay development efforts could be enhanced by working with an admissions expert, please contact us. Our team of highly experienced consultants and editors at The MBA Exchange can help you capture and convey your authentic candidacy in ways that would otherwise be difficult, perhaps even painful, to do on your own.