Monday Morning Essay Tip: Certainty Versus Diplomacy

Candidates often fret about striking the right balance between confidence and arrogance in their essays. For example, you might have difficulty choosing the better choice from between the following statements:

Example 1: “At the Stanford GSB, I will take advantage of the newly designed curriculum to…

Example 2: “At the Stanford GSB, I would take advantage of the newly designed curriculum to…

Or between these statements:

Example 1: “After completing my MBA at Harvard Business School, I will pursue a career in…

Example 2: “After completing my MBA at Harvard Business School, I would aspire to a career in…

In each set of examples, you are choosing between certainty (“I will”) and diplomacy (“I would”). Considering these options, you might ask yourself, “Is the first option too presumptuous?” or “Is the second option too weak?” The answer is that neither of these examples is “right”; each candidate needs to choose an approach that is consistent with his or her personality. However, the key is to maintain consistency—mixing the two styles is distracting to the reader and can seem sloppy.

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