Limit the Use of “I” When Beginning Sentences in MBA Application Essays, and Never Use “Etc.”

Although putting yourself at the center of the stories in your MBA application essays is certainly important, a common mistake applicants tend to make is beginning too many sentences with the word “I.” As a general rule, you should never begin two sentences in a row this way. Consider the following example:

“I worked for three years at ABC Plastics, a small injection molding company. I was responsible for overseeing the overall management of ABC Plastics, from day-to-day operations to strategic planning. I managed 100 people. I worked very long hours, but I learned more than I could have ever imagined.”

Now, consider the same statement reworked to avoid using “I” at the beginning of subsequent sentences:

“For three years, I worked at ABC Plastics, a small injection molding company. My responsibilities at ABC included overseeing the overall management of the company, from day-to-day operations to strategic planning. Because I supervised more than 100 staff members, my days were long, but the experience taught me more than I could have ever imagined.”

As you can see, the second example reads much better than the first—and none of the sentences in the second example begin with “I.”

Our next tip applies to the entire essay, instead of just the beginning of a sentence. As a general rule, “etc.” should never appear in the text of your MBA application essays. Consider the following sentences:

  1. I helped draft prospectuses, analyze key company data, value companies, etc.
  2. I look forward to courses such as “Small Business Management,” “Leading Teams,” “Multiparty Negotiations,” etc.

In the first example, “etc.” replaces information that the reader values. The reader cannot make the leap and just assume where the writer’s experiences lead and what they include. In the second example, “etc.” trivializes the school’s resources and may even suggest to the admissions committee that the applicant is just too lazy or disinterested to properly do his/her research.

We are at a loss to think of one instance in which “etc.” could be used appropriately in a business school essay. Very simply, ensure your essays do not include this term.

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