Crafting the perfect personal essay

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Writing a personal essay

In the college world, personal essays offer chances for prospective graduate students to prove themselves for admission into a program. When pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration degree, creating the best essay possible is the first major step toward learning essential skills and advancing career opportunities. With so much riding on a single paper, it’s important to make it the best one you’ve ever written to stand out among other applicants and improve your chances of acceptance. Crafting the perfect personal essay won’t be easy, but with preparation and perseverance, you’ll be able to submit your best work.

Carefully think about the prompts

To level the playing field, many institutions will have a few prompts to choose from to guide your personal essay. It won’t be enough to write on the first one that jumps out at you – you must carefully consider each topic and think about which one you can write the best case for. The Common Application noted that 47 percent of applicants that submitted an essay chose to write about their background, identity, talent or an interest so integral to their lives that their applications would be incomplete without it. Many colleges also have prompts dealing with what you learned from a failure, a time that you challenged a belief or idea, or a problem you solved or would like to solve.

Dig deep into your life experiences and narrow it down to the best instances that fall into these categories. Consider what each of these events means to you and how important they were to make you into the person that you are. This will not only help you narrow down a topic, it will also give you material to write a well-crafted personal essay. Evaluating each prompt can help avoid writer’s block and rewrites down the road. Make sure you actually touch on all the points referred to in the prompt and adhere to any word count requirements.

Make each essay unique

Whether you’re writing essays for consideration to multiple schools or just one, the paper should be totally unique compared to your other work. Some candidates may use arguments from previous essays or might copy text directly from their resume. The individuals reading your essay will be able to identify these issues right away, and it could hurt your admission chances. Some institutions will also have vastly different prompts, enabling you to dig into other territory and create something new and fresh for that university.

Top MBA noted that a personal essay is meant to convey information that can’t be shown on a resume. Avoid general statements as much as possible and get specific in your writing. Use the prompt to guide you, but make it personal and write from your heart. The essay should delve deep into your thoughts and feelings related to particular events in your own life and how they shaped you.

Explain why you’re interested in the program

The reader likely already knows the selling points of the school, so reiterating them will waste words in your essay. It will be important to instead choose one thing about the program itself and explain why you’re interested in it. This will not only better show your knowledge of the school, it will also enable the admissions officer to understand how the program’s offerings can help you reach your goals. The Princeton Review noted that well-defined goals for pursuing an MBA are favored within essays, so it will be important to demonstrate that you have a plan, even if you’re unsure about the future. This detail also provides more insight about you and adds to the personalized aspect of the essay.

If you’re submitting essays to multiple programs, it will be important to double check them before submission. If admissions committees see another school’s name or forms, it could impact your acceptance. Be sure to make each essay unique for each institution and build upon each other to present a consistent and compelling representation of what you bring to the table.

Focus on the personal elements

For some applicants, the prospect of a personal essay isn’t so enticing. We’ve all made mistakes in the past, but dwelling on them or avoiding the subject entirely isn’t going to help. Don’t apologize or make an excuse for past faults. It will be more beneficial to accentuate the positives. USA Today College suggested instead showing how you improved from the mistake and how you’ve adjusted your priorities. This will paint a more flattering picture and make the topic more personal.

It will also be important to choose meaningful events. Talking about situations that had the greatest impact on your life and career will demonstrate your growth and provide motivation within your essay. You should also make clear connections to what you will contribute to the program and how you will take advantage of program offerings. Simply pursuing an MBA to make more money or have a high-ranking career isn’t enough. Candidates should demonstrate how they were inspired by community members or their background to give back. Giving meaning to your goals will not only impress admissions committees but will also establish a more valuable partnership with the University.

Applicants should also try to focus on instances that happened within your college years or career. These events are not only fresh in your mind, but they will display your competence in a business environment. Try to talk about team achievements and your part in them, rather than solely focusing on yourself. This will better demonstrate your unique skills and position yourself as a team-player. Don’t write about what you think the reader wants to hear. Write about your true experiences and how they have influenced your growth. This will have a much more profound impact on your application.

Give yourself enough time to write and edit

Procrastinating until the deadline to write and submit your personal essay is a big mistake. Crafting a great essay will likely take more time than you think, and waiting until the last minute will only pressure you to submit something quickly. Often, in these situations, essays will be filled with generalizations, industry jargon and irrelevant anecdotes to take up space. Without enough time, you won’t be able to provide details about your story to make your point, and you will make significant quality sacrifices to just have a paper submitted on time. It’s also easier to use previous work within your essay or rehash resume information when you’re pressed for time.

By giving yourself a schedule for completing your personalized essay, you will have enough preparation to catch and fix any mistakes. Grammar and spelling errors will suggest a sloppy attitude, so it’s in your best interest to ensure that your application, resume, and essay have been well-edited. For example, you’ll want to watch for wrong word errors, vague pronoun references, unnecessary commas, faulty sentence structure and verb tense shifts, Stanford stated. Spelling will also be critical to watch, as some spell checkers cannot identify everything. Proofread carefully to catch errors that are easily missed.

Aspiring applicants should start the essay-writing process as early as possible. Create a schedule to decide on a topic and start writing. Create specific goals for yourself to get parts done and edited by the due date. This level of organization will show through in a quality personal essay that has been carefully crafted to match prompt and requirement specifications.

Submit your paper

MBA hopefuls must stay on top of application deadlines and review criteria for each program. Applicants should report professional work experience, as this strengthens their profile and makes them competitive within the job market. Undergraduate academic records, graduate admission tests scores and a letter of recommendation should also be submitted alongside a well-written essay.

The Admissions Committee at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business specifically looks for papers that clearly and concisely answer the prompt, as well as any spelling or grammatical errors. The essay, combined with other application forms help evaluate a candidate’s potential to be successful in the graduate business program and his or her ability to contribute to the perspective of the class. With this much importance on a paper, it will be critical to ensure it’s perfect.

A well-crafted personal essay represents an institution’s first impression of you, and it must be treated accordingly. Giving yourself enough time to write and edit the essay will ensure that you’ve addressed the prompt and any other school requirements before submission. By focusing on meaningful points that align with the topics, you will be able to write more from the heart and show your passion for pursuing an MBA. Remember to make each essay unique for every institution and explain specific reasons why you’re interested in the program. By following these tips, MBA applicants can craft the perfect personal essay and increase their chance for success in admission.

Recommended Readings:
How to Be a Self-Starter
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your MBA