Avoid Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers in MBA Application Essays

A dangling or misplaced modifier is a word or phrase that is intended to describe one thing but actually describes something else because of its placement in a sentence. Misplaced modifiers are a common mistake in MBA application essays and can be very distracting to a reader, in addition to possibly misrepresenting the writer’s intention. Although misplaced modifiers can appear anywhere in a sentence, the most common, most obvious, and (thankfully) easiest to correct are those that occur at the beginning of a sentence. Consider the following examples:

As the highest-rated professor at the school, West’s academic writings are primarily analyses of recent developments in tort law.

Even after studying all night, the test was still too difficult for John to pass.

In the first sample sentence, “the highest-rated professor at the school” is meant to describe West, but it instead refers to “West’s academic writings.” In the second example, we can assume that John was the one who studied all night, but because of the way the sentence is constructed, “the test” supposedly did the extensive studying.

To avoid these kinds of confusing constructions, make sure that the first thing you mention after a descriptive introductory phrase is what you want that phrase to describe. To correct our examples here, we could reword them as follows:

As the highest-rated professor at the school, West produces academic writings that are primarily analyses of recent developments in tort law.

Even after studying all night, John was unable to pass the test.

However, misplaced modifiers can appear anywhere within a sentence when a phrase is juxtaposed with a different part of the sentence than is intended. Consider the following:

As I became aware of what I wanted in life, I shared my dream of starting a charitable foundation with my parents.

With this wording, the writer is saying that he dreams of starting a foundation with his parents, yet we can safely assume that the writer instead meant that he shared his dream with his parents. To correct this sentence, you could move the misplaced phrase or even reword the sentence to clarify:

As I became aware of what I wanted in life, I shared with my parents my dream of starting a charitable foundation.

As I became aware of what I wanted in life, I told my parents about my dream of starting a charitable foundation.
Always make sure your descriptive phrases are in proper proximity to the elements of your sentence that you want them to modify.

April 24, 2017


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M7 Financial

Learn Core Values at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management

Core Values at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management - mbaMissionFirst years at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management begin their MBA experience within two cohorts, enjoying a close-knit classroom environment in which they gain exposure to broad management skills, with a particular emphasis on business ethics. Both the curriculum and the student community at the school engender a set of core values: “honesty and integrity,” “mutual respect,” “pursuit of excellence,” and “personal accountability.” In addition to taking a class on public speaking; a structure, analysis, and integration workshop; and a SQL workshop, students at the Carroll School must complete at least 20 hours of community service, which the school requires to help instill an appreciation for and a spirit of community service in its MBAs.

These values are also reflected in the school’s core “Management Practice Experience” simulation, in which students learn to think critically about the challenges involved in business leadership. As one graduate commented in a past Bloomberg Businessweek profile of the Carroll School, “In the background of your core classes, and many electives, is a strong consideration on the moral and ethical dilemmas that often arise in the business world. I never felt that ‘morality’ was being pushed on us, but the consequences of each decision we make were always placed in front of us and we were left to make up our own mind.”

Manhattan Prep

Travel the World on a Michigan Ross M-Trek

See the World on an M-Trek at Michigan Ross - mbaMissionFor incoming first-year students at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business who want to get a head start on building friendships within their class or make use of some time off before school begins, the M-Trek program may be just the answer. M-Treks, which were first offered in 1999, are small-group, multiday, outdoor adventure trips that take place before the academic year begins. Organized in locations around the world, the trips are entirely student led (by second-year MBA students) and are designed to provide a team-based environment similar to that found at Ross and to promote leadership in a team setting. M-Treks look to be as inclusive as possible—trips are available to suit a wide variety of interests and thus range from hard-core adventure to relaxing sightseeing excursions.

The 2017 treks, which will take place in August, include such themes as “Lit in Split,” which will lead participants through Croatia and Montenegro, and “A Song of Ice and Ire,” an exploration of Iceland and Ireland. 2016 treks included “Not Your Basic Beaches,” during which participants explored private beaches and the countryside of France and Spain, and “Guate Get Down,” which took place in the historic areas of Belize and Guatemala. In 2015, treks ranged from “Edward Fjord-y-Hands,” which featured hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking in Sweden and Norway, to “Best Friends Pho Ever,” where participants boarded a train and explored local food and culture in Vietnam.

So, whether you are interested in hiking and rafting in Iceland or beaching and snorkeling in Mexico, M-Treks provide a chance to build friendships and develop leadership skills while having a great time.

For more information on other defining characteristics of the MBA program at Michigan Ross or one of 15 other top business schools, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.

MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: My Recommender’s Grammar Will Ruin My Chances

At mbaMission, we emphasize the need for effective written communication. Indeed, gaining admission to your target business school involves no real “trick”—earning that coveted letter of acceptance depends on your ability to tell your story in a compelling way and in your own words. But is good grammar vital to good communication? And if so, will your recommender’s bad grammar be detrimental to your chances?

We can assure you that no MBA admissions committee will reject a candidate’s application because he/she incorrectly used a semicolon instead of a comma. The committee is seeking to learn about you as an individual to evaluate you and your potential, both as a student at the school and in the business world after graduation. What is most important in your application is that you convey your unique stories—and ideally captivate your reader—in your own voice. Of course, you should always strive to perfect your presentation, but in the end, the quality and authenticity of your content carry more weight than your verbiage and punctuation. And if you are not a native English speaker, you can certainly be forgiven for the occasional idiosyncrasy in your expression.

This is even truer for your recommender. The committee is not evaluating this individual for a spot in the school’s program, so his/her grammar is largely irrelevant to your candidacy. And again, if your recommender is not a native English speaker, the admissions committees can be even more forgiving. The school will not penalize you for having a recommender who grew up in another country or whose English skills are not very polished for any other reason. As long as your recommender can offer anecdotes about your performance that create a strong impression about you and complement the abilities and qualities you have presented elsewhere in your application, you should be just fine. The substance of the recommendation is always what matters most.

Laying the Foundation for Your MBA Application

By being proactive and doing some advance planning, aspiring MBA candidates can remove a great deal of stress from the business school application process and substantially bolster their candidacy. We have several big picture recommendations for applicants to consider to help them be as competitive and prepared as possible when admissions season begins in earnest.

Few candidates realize that starting to visit campuses as early as late winter or early spring is a great way to learn about and establish interest in specific schools. Campus visits are not just opportunities for you to “register” with a program’s admissions committee but are also a time for you to gain a deeper, firsthand understanding of various academic methodologies and social environments. Such visits can also prepare you to write far more targeted and informed essays when the time comes. After all, you can only learn so much about a school from its Web site.

Another way to gain a deeper understanding of your target schools is by meeting with alumni or students, and you can begin doing this now as well. Students may be able to bring specific programs and classes to your attention that are not prominently featured on a school’s Web site or in its marketing materials but that may be quite appealing and/or relevant to you. Referring to such resources and offerings may also help you strengthen your case for attending that particular school. By meeting with students and alumni and by visiting classes, you will collect a variety of data points that will serve as a foundation for you to persuade the admissions committee that its school is ideally suited to you, in a way that few other candidates will be able to do.

Many candidates have trouble honestly and sincerely articulating their post-MBA aspirations, and virtually every business school requires that candidates write an essay that discusses their short- and/or long-term career goals. So if you hope to enter a competitive field, such as banking or consulting, now would be a good time to conduct informational interviews or even job shadow an individual for a day, if possible. The admissions committees frown on vague goal statements or generic claims that lack a profound personal connection to a position and are therefore less credible. By connecting with and learning from people in the position and/or industry you are targeting, you will gain insight that will imbue your stated career goals with sincerity  and authenticity.

A rather overt measure you can take to bolster your candidacy is stepping into a leadership role in your community, if you have not already done so. The earlier you take this step, the more time you have in which to create a track record and show that you are a substantive individual outside of the office. If you instead wait to start volunteering until the fall, your contributions will seem far less sincere, and you will not have sufficient time or opportunity to have the kind of profound experiences that lend themselves well to application essays. When identifying a volunteer activity in which to involve yourself, first and foremost, select an organization about which you feel legitimately passionate. If you are genuinely excited about the cause or organization you have chosen, you will be more committed to it, enjoy a more meaningful experience, and have a more heartfelt story to tell about it.

Ideally, your community experiences will both complement and supplement your profile. They can reveal a true passion for your field (complementary) or shift the admissions committee’s perspective on you (supplementary) and help differentiate you from other applicants. For example, an accountant who volunteers with Junior Achievement shows a commitment to his professional path and his desire to give back in this area, thereby complementing his existing profile. The accountant who coaches soccer in his community offers a new window on his personality and abilities, thereby supplementing his profile.

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