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Monday Morning Essay Tip: Be Careful When Claiming 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.”

An mbaMission consultant recently counted five uses of the word “unique” in a single 600-word essay. What is more, not one of the uses actually fulfilled the term’s correct definition: “existing as the only one or as the sole example.” Business school applicants tend to use the word “unique” in an attempt to make themselves stand out to the admissions committee. However, because they use the word imprecisely—and often too frequently—it ends up having the opposite effect instead, and the essay loses its distinctiveness and believability. 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 we presented at the beginning of this post, 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 the mentorship program offered by Cornell’s Investment Management Club.”




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