Monday Morning Essay Tip: Be Honest, But Stay Positive

Sincerity. Honesty. Candor. We encourage candidates to incorporate these attributes into their application, and when they do, successful essays inevitably follow. Yet, can one express too much of these attributes? The answer is actually “yes,” especially when candor turns to negativity. Sometimes, when candidates believe they are being candid, they are in fact revealing themselves to be predisposed to pessimism; as a result, the admissions committee has difficulty identifying with their file. Such situations are unfortunate, but fortunately, they are also typically avoidable, because an ostensibly “negative” idea can almost always be expressed in a positive and optimistic manner.


“In my current position, I am no longer learning and am afraid I will continue to stagnate without my MBA. I cannot achieve my objective of becoming a leader in the marketing department at my firm unless…”

Common sense would say that the admissions committee would likely not be very excited about accepting an applicant who has stopped learning or who believes that his/her career progress can be thwarted by basic obstacles.

Revised Example:

“As I look to the future, I recognize that with MBA training, I could dramatically increase my impact on my firm. With an eye toward a leadership position in our marketing department, I am….”

In this revised example, the candidate is expressing the exact same need for an MBA in positive terms and is thus making him-/herself a more warm and engaging prospect (while still candidly stating a need for further education).

Before submitting your file, check for unnecessarily negative statements. Although we would never suggest that every line in your essays needs to be full of sunshine, you should certainly take steps to avoid portraying yourself as a pessimist.

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