Monday Morning Essay Tip: Focus on Your Story, Not Your Time Frame

When starting an MBA application essay, many candidates default to using a comfortable and reliable device: stating the year in which the event occurred. However, in many cases, the year is irrelevant or might even be detrimental to the applicant’s case, particularly with MBA admissions committees who have an unspoken bias for younger candidates.

Example 1: “In 2006, while walking through a market in Dhaka, I found the most unusual item for my firm’s catalogue.”

In this example, is the year really important? Is this mysterious discovery not interesting enough to stand on its own, regardless of the year in which it occurred? Further, this writer may be taking an unnecessary risk by informing the reader that the experience is seven years old.

Example 2: “While walking through a market in Dhaka, I found the most unusual item for my firm’s catalogue.”

In the second example, we have a simpler opening, but one that still captures the reader’s imagination, even without disclosing when the event occurred. The only reason you may feel that the time frame is “missing” in the latter example is because it appears in the first example, so you may have half expected it to appear again, but in fact, the central story does not change at all without it. With no date mentioned, you would simply proceed through the introduction into the body of the essay, following the story line, rather than being distracted by the time frame for this hypothetical candidate. So, when writing about your experiences, consider whether disclosing the time frame is really necessary for the effectiveness or clarity of the story. If it is not, you may want to avoid mentioning the date, because it could be distracting or even a detriment.

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