Part III of Building your Business School Application: The sum always has to be greater than the parts

Writing with orange pencil

A holistic approach is key to every successful admissions campaign. You must ensure that all of the pieces of your “story” — academic, personal and professional — are tied together. A strong GPA and stellar GMAT will never compensate for the lack of a cohesive, compelling story about your past, present and well-planned post-MBA future. And, conversely, a great story won’t offset poor grades or lackluster test scores.

A comprehensive consultation with The MBA Exchange will help you “mine” your background and then deliver a cohesive story by maximizing each component of the application: resume, recommendations, essays/video statements, and application materials and interviews. This blog series highlights each of these components. Up now …

Part 3: Your MBA Admissions Essays and (if needed) Video Submissions

Candidacy building has to come before essay writing. We get it: you’re an eager MBA applicant and you can’t wait to start writing essays that will wow adcoms! With exciting memories and compelling story lines flashing through your head — and feeling the pressure of approaching deadlines — you want to get your thoughts down ASAP.

Instead, take a pause. Although compelling and authentic essays are essential to admission success, it can be a mistake to start writing too early in your campaign because there is serious developmental work that needs to be done before you should start describing your profile. That’s why at The MBA Exchange we advise clients to begin by analyzing and optimizing the underlying candidacy. Even if there are just a few months — or even a few weeks — before the application deadline, there is still time to examine your qualifications and bolster your value proposition.

Answer these 5 questions before you sit down to write or record anything:

  1. What are the major accomplishments, strengths and measurable results of your professional, academic and personal history? What makes them distinctive?
  2. What mistakes, limitations and vulnerabilities might keep your candidacy from being more competitive? What are the circumstances behind these limitations?
  3. What are your post-MBA career goals that will convince business schools that you can and will make a difference (and make them proud)?
  4. What do your target schools value most in the applicants they admit? What can you say or do that could bridge the gap between those candidacies and yours?
  5. What can you do before submitting your application that would leverage your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses to optimize your candidacy?

    By addressing such questions candidly and honestly you can improve your profile and help identify the strongest possible topics and examples to be featured in your essays and short answers. So, before you jump in and start writing, do some soul searching. The quality and impact of your writing will soar if you begin with introspection and improvement.

    And then …

    Smile for the camera!

    If you have to face the camera as part of the application campaign, in some cases, you will produce your own video essay in response to a question provided in advance by the school or about a topic that you uniquely create. In other cases, you’ll have to answer one or more impromptu questions, presented in real time by the school, with a strict time limit for the video response. For both kinds of videos, the admissions committee’s underlying goals are to see if you understand and represent what the school is seeking for its incoming class and to gauge how effectively you communicate.

    As you approach this part of your application, it’s important to note that preparation requires a different mindset and skills. One great thing about written responses is you can produce dozens of drafts, reconsider and refine each word, and then submit only your best work. Likewise, for video essays, you should devote time and attention to planning content. Such planning is easiest when the school has provided the question(s) in advance. When you have the option to select the topic, choosing the most beneficial topic for the video is just as important as crafting the response. For impromptu videos, the challenge is even greater since you have to respond within seconds to a question you’re facing for the first time. And in all cases, you have to take into consideration technical factors such as audio and video quality.

    The good news is that business schools don’t expect applicants to submit Hollywood-quality videos or Pulitzer-worthy writing. In fact, appearing too “perfect” might actually negatively impact your candidacy! The bad news is that your application is a one-way communication tool – how will you know you are submitting your best possible material? Let us provide valuable, expert feedback before you submit.

    Whether writing or recording your admissions essays, embrace this opportunity for discovery, creativity and self-awareness! By thoughtfully planning, producing and submitting your best material, you’ll be taking a giant step closer to the ultimate victory – admission to your dream business school.