Monday Morning Essay Tip: Use Just One Famous Quote per Application

Sometimes, incorporating a famous quote (or perhaps a lesser-known quote by a well-known person) into one of your application essays can add a little something special to the story you are trying to tell. If the quotation truly enhances your message in a significant way, it can serve as an effective tool, making your submission that much more compelling. Consider the following examples:

Example 1:

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt’s words are as true today as when he spoke them. The essence of a manager is…

Example 2:

As Peter F. Drucker said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” I have found the distinction between management and leadership especially important…

However, some candidates may be tempted to use a quotation as a kind of crutch, essentially relying on someone else’s clever or poignant wordsmanship in place of their own. Think of using a quotation as a way of enriching an already interesting narrative, rather than as an easy shortcut to a more impressive essay.

Before using a quotation in your writing, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Does the quotation fit the essay’s main theme?
  • Does the quotation reflect who you are or what you believe?
  • Does the quotation truly enhance the essay?


If you can answer “yes” to all three questions, incorporating the quotation into your essay might be a good idea. But first make sure that your story is sufficiently strong to stand on its own—without the quote—and limit yourself to just one quotation per application (not per essay).

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