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Monday Morning Essay Tip: Avoid False Claims of Uniqueness

“The semester I spent in France during high school was a unique experience.”

“I want to attend Columbia Business School because of its unique Entrepreneurial Club.”

“The opportunity to do hands-on consulting at Ross is unique.”

“My finance background and strong interpersonal skills will allow me to make a unique contribution to Cornell’s Investment Management Club.”

One of mbaMission’s consultants recently counted five uses of the word “unique” in a single 600-word essay.  What’s more, not one of the uses actually fulfilled the term’s correct definition: “existing as the only one or as the sole example.”  Applicants tend to use the word “unique” as a way of trying to make themselves stand out to the admissions committee. However, because they use the word imprecisely—and often, too frequently—it instead has the opposite effect of making the essay lose its distinctiveness.  Another danger of using the term too casually is that you risk exposing your lack of research about the school if you claim something is unique to the school when it really is not.

Here are the same four statements written without the generic “unique.”  In each case, the sentence is far more descriptive and therefore much less likely to appear in any other applicant’s essay!

“The semester I spent in France during high school was eye-opening, from the frogs’ legs I was served at dinner to the concept of shopping daily for my food.”

“I want to attend Columbia Business School because its Entrepreneurial Club offers an incredible range of activities that will prepare me to better run my own company.”

“The opportunity to do hands-on consulting at Ross will complement the theoretical background I will gain by taking classes on consulting.”

“My finance background and strong interpersonal skills will ensure that I will effectively coach and mentor classmates new to finance through Cornell’s Investment Management Club’s mentorship program.”




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