Writing a stellar college admission essay is one of the best ways you can stand out from other applicants. When applying to business schools, a lot of students you will be competing with will have similar GPAs, test scores and extra-curricular activities. So how do you separate yourself from everyone else?
Here are 5 college essay admission tips to help you nail your common app essay:
1. Pick an essay topic that you care about and want to write about
Picking a topic is an essential first step for creating a standout MBA application essay. Choose a topic that you have a strong interest in instead of writing what you think the college board wants to hear.
You will be able to stand out better if you write about a topic that you have strong knowledge on and are passionate about. Your enthusiasm will be more apparent, and you will be able to write more authoritatively if you choose a topic that is naturally interesting to you. Not to mention, it’s much easier to write when you are truly invested in the topic.
Picking a topic that is interesting to you also allows you to let the admission board learn more about who you are. Think about what an MBA admissions officer might not know from viewing your college application. Then, use your essay as an opportunity to dive deeper into an aspect of your life that isn’t apparent from your application. After reading your essay, the admission officer should have a clearer vision of who you are as a person, why you want to pursue an MBA, and what sets you apart — including your passion for the topic.
2. Read another successful college admissions essay for inspiration
One thing you should do before writing your MBA admissions essay is to read other successful examples to get ideas and inspiration for your own essay. Here are a couple of sites where you can read actual MBA essays that worked for other students (along with comments from admission officers and experts).
Pay attention to what worked and why admissions officers liked these essays and use that as guidance and inspiration as you draft your own.
3. Start with a story
While there isn’t a perfect formula for creating a winning MBA application essay, many successful essays have similarities. One common element that many successful essays have is that they start with a story.
Stories can really captivate readers and make them interested in reading your content. In fact, one blogger got 300% more people to read his articles by simply adding a story to the beginning. Furthermore, using a personal story can let people get to know more about who you really are. Psychology studies have shown that self-disclosure builds trust and makes you more likable.
Don’t repeat your resume in your essay. Use your essay as an opportunity to show the application board a little more about who you are through anecdotes that are relevant to your essay topic.
4. Get attention by nailing the first line
Admissions officers have to read lots of essays. And most of those essays are boring. To stand out, get the reader’s attention by nailing the first line. So what are some ways to create a good first impression in your opening lines? Here are a few ideas:
Ask a question – When you ask a question, people naturally want to keep reading to see the answer. Starting with an interesting question can be a great way to hook readers into your writing; make sure it’s well thought-out and not overused or easily answered.
Start with a shocking or intriguing statement – An interesting or surprising statement can arouse curiosity and make the reader want to keep reading. You can even reveal an exciting or unusual personal detail about yourself or your life, an “unpopular” opinion you’re able to defend clearly or a seemingly unrelated statement that you cleverly tie back to the MBA essay.
Humor – Humor can be an excellent way to stand out and entertain your reader. Can you use humor to lead into your personal story? If so, you may want to consider using humor to stand out. Be careful of course, but those who can deftly use humor to capture attention and make a point will make an impression.
Here are some first lines from essays of students that successfully got into Stanford:
Ask yourself: Does the first line of your essay make the reader want to keep reading?
If not, then spend some time thinking of a strong opening line that will capture the interest of anyone who reads your essay. Utilize the next step, 5, on your opening line before diving into your entire essay. Or, work backward — write your essay, then go back and pull out an impactful first line.
5. Have other people read over your college essay
Having other people read over your essay can be another way to improve your results. Family members, friends or your school counselor may be willing to read your essay and share their opinions. Even better, someone who already holds an MBA or an executive you trust will be a great sounding board that can provide real-world insights.
Other people may find grammatical and spelling errors that you missed. They can also offer suggestions on what you wrote and how you can improve it. Remember that editing is just as vital as writing!
If you want to boost your chances of success, you might even want to consider hiring a professional editor. Some editors specialize in helping students with their college admissions essays and might be able to give you tips and ideas for improvement.
Just use Google and search for “college admission essay editor” or try posting a job on Upwork. Sure, hiring an editor costs money. But, it may be worth the investment to hire a professional if you want the advantage of getting into your dream business school.
To sum it up, writing a great admissions essay can be one of the most challenging parts of completing your MBA application process. But, it’s also one of your best opportunities to stand out. Take time to write something unique. Use your essay as an opportunity to let the admissions board get to know who you are and make an impact from the beginning.
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