In previous essay tips, we advised candidates—with respect to their personal statements—to contextualize their academic objectives and ensure that their essays are truly personal; an additional concept to consider is bringing focus to your professional needs. We at mbaMission have found that many candidates attempt to cover all of their reasons for targeting a specific MBA program and ironically, as a result, make a weak argument.
“As an aspiring entrepreneur, I need Professor John Smith’s Fundamentals of Finance course. I also need skills in marketing and will take Small Business Marketing and Internet Marketing. I will need to supervise the operations at my firm and look forward to the Operations Challenge. My leadership skills will be tested, but I will have access to the XYZ Leadership Center. Finally, I will look to the Strategy Seminar series to round out my management skills.”
We can identify a variety of problems with the paragraph above, but the most pressing is that it is simply a list of reasons to attend an unspecified MBA program and not a thorough discussion of how this particular MBA program meets the candidate’s needs.
This candidate would be better off focusing his/her argument on just two or three crucial elements (depending on the length of the essay) and exploring them in depth (most likely via a dedicated paragraph per item). In the following example, we will assume that the candidate is applying to Columbia Business School and that his/her primary academic need is in entrepreneurship:
“As an aspiring entrepreneur, I find Columbia’s academic offerings in this field—particularly, Introduction to Venturing and Launching New Ventures—very attractive, but I am truly compelled by the experiential opportunities provided by the Lang Center. I would aspire to join the Entrepreneurial Greenhouse, a crucial opportunity for me to nurture and grow my idea during its most vulnerable stages, and I would complement this experience by taking advantage of the constructive feedback of experienced entrepreneurs via the Entrepreneurial Sounding Board. Only with this combination of…”
In the first example, we have a chaotic argument that moves in many different directions. In the second, the reader focuses on a main concept and is thus far more persuasive and able to connect with the reader.