Focus on the Essay Story, Not the Time Frame

Many MBA candidates default to using a comfortable and reliable device at the beginning of their application essays: stating the year in which the event they are about to describe occurred. However, the year is often irrelevant and could even be detrimental to the applicant’s case, particularly with admissions committees that 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, does the year really matter? Is this mysterious discovery not interesting enough to stand on its own? Further, this writer may be taking an unnecessary risk by informing the reader that the experience is several 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 to see it 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.

So, when writing about your experiences, consider whether disclosing the year or time frame is really necessary for the effectiveness or clarity of your 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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