Use Conflict in Your Essays, but Avoid Repetitive Techniques

When you are writing a compelling story, conflict can be a very important element. Of course, we mean conflict in the literary rather than the physical or emotional sense (no one wants to hear about how you hotheadedly instigated a confrontation). In literary terms, conflict occurs at the moment an oppositional force helps shape the central story. So, a narrative that presents you—the candidate and hero of the story—experiencing an effortless ride toward victory would not typically be as interesting or exciting as one in which you suffered some bumps and bruises along the way.

For example, most people would find the story of a rookie challenger beating an experienced marathon runner at the finish line a lot more compelling than the story of a runner who leads the race by a wide margin from beginning to end and never experiences any competition. Although you might not have an anecdote like this in your arsenal, our point is that whether you are telling the story of refining a supply chain, getting a deal done, marketing a new product, or accomplishing any other facet of business, you should identify and share the hurdles you overcame in doing so, because describing a time when you enjoyed a smooth and easy path to success may not allow you to shine as brightly.

Like conflict, structure is also an important element in your writing. Many applicants find writing to be a challenge, and some have particular difficulty changing the structure from one essay to the next. For example, a candidate might choose to use a quote at the beginning of an essay to create a sense of urgency:

“This cannot be fixed. This cannot be fixed!” I stared blankly at the broken machinery and knew that the next few hours would be crucial…


Using this kind of attention-grabbing technique is certainly acceptable, but you should never use the same technique more than once in an application. By starting more than one essay in the same manner, you are effectively sending the admissions reader the message that you understand how to use a gimmick but not how to tell a compelling story in your own way. This is also a quick way to lose the reader’s interest! So be sure to vary your approach with each new essay within a single application. We work with our candidates to ensure that their ideas are presented in fresh and different ways, to captivate the admissions committee with each introduction and, indeed, each essay.

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