Monday Morning Essay Tip: Captivate with Experience, Not Extreme Descriptions

This week, we discuss an oxymoron of sorts: extreme humility. One candidate could be more humble than the next, we imagine, but one could never refer to oneself as “extremely humble,” because doing so would undermine the very claim to humility.

Our philosophy at mbaMission is that candidates should let their experiences, not just their word choices, captivate the admissions committees. Sometimes we find that applicants attempt to emphasize their actions with “extreme” adjectives and adverbs—an approach we strongly discourage.

Example: “As others withdrew their support, I remained remarkably dedicated to our crucial fundraising efforts. I dramatically increased my participation in our strategic planning meetings and insisted that we push forward with a wildly creative guerrilla marketing plan, which brought forth tremendous results—$1M in ‘instant’ proceeds.”

In these two sentences, the writer uses the descriptors “remarkably,” “dramatically,” “wildly,” and “tremendous” to make his impression. We find that a more effective approach is to eliminate these “extreme” descriptions and let the experiences do the “talking.”

 Example: “As others withdrew their support, I remained dedicated to our fundraising efforts. I increased my participation in our strategic planning meetings and insisted that we push forward with a guerrilla marketing plan that brought $1M in ‘instant’ proceeds.”

In this second example, the writer does not need to say that the results were “tremendous,” because the $1M in proceeds speaks for itself; we do not need to be told that the marketing campaign was “wildly creative,” because this is implied in the nature of guerrilla marketing. In addition to truly showing a level of humility on the part of the candidate, this approach is also less wordy. Although the eight words saved in the latter example may seem inconsequential, we removed them from only two sentences. If you can remove four words from every sentence in your original draft, you could significantly but humbly augment your essay with other compelling ideas.

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