Monday Morning Essay Tip: Overrepresenting Your Overrepresentation

Many in the MBA application pool—particularly male investment bankers and Indian software engineers—worry that they are overrepresented. Although applicants cannot change their work histories, they can change the way they introduce themselves to the admissions committee. Consider the following examples:

Example 1: “As an investment banker, I…

Example 2: “Managing a team to code a new software product for ABC Corp., I….”

In these brief examples, each candidate mistakenly introduces the reader to the very overrepresentation that he/she is trying to avoid. Many applicants feel they must start their essays by offering their titles or company names, but this approach can immediately give the reader pause and leave them thinking, “Here we go again.”

Overrepresented candidates should therefore consider their opening lines especially carefully. Rather than stating the obvious, a candidate might instead immerse the reader in a situation or present a special aspect of his/her position.

Example 1 (launching into a story): “At 5:30 pm, I could rest easy. The deadline for all other offers had passed. At that point, I knew….”

Example 2: (stand out): “While managing a multinational team, half in Silicon Valley and half in Pakistan, I….”

In the first example here, the banker candidate avoids drab self-introduction and instead plunges the reader into the midst of a mystery that is playing out. In the second example, the software engineer candidate introduces him-/herself not as a “coder” but as a multinational manager. Of course, each applicant’s situation is different, but every candidate can work with his/her story to avoid the pitfalls of overrepresentation.

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