The Biggest Problem with MBA Personal Statements?
In a phrase: they’re too damn boring!
I’ve helped clients write over 100 MBA personal statements in the last few years, and one recurring theme stands out: business school applicants almost always want to restate their resume, point for point, on a personal statement.
I mean, how boring is that?
First rule of writing: put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Do you think an MBA Admissions Adviser wants to read a rephrasing of your resume, especially when they’ve just read your resume, and he or she has to read hundreds of boring essays a year? Will restating your resume in your personal statement help your chances of getting accepted? Will it show how you’re uniquely suited to the challenges of that business school?
No, no, and another NO!
So, how can you stand out, while still maintaining an appropriate tone and responding to the prompt?
A Business school essay must always effectively respond to the prompt. You may see a question like: why is now the right time for you to pursue an MBA? Or something along those lines.
Do not respond with: I’m at the perfect point in my career to start an MBA because….
I’ve seen fifth graders start an essay more effectively.
Instead, tell your story. Highlight the aspects of yourself that aren’t on your resume. Catch the readers attention from the first line!
“I tightened my damp peacoat. The harsh New York winter proved a formidable foe. It was 3 PM on a Wednesday, and the sun hadn’t come out in three days. I eighty percent sure my Texan toes were in the first stages of frostbite, yet as I pushed through the heavy gold doors at 55 Wall Street to start my second week as a junior analyst, I was more excited than I’d been in a long, long time.”
An intro like this shows the reader that you’re not the average B-school applicant. It shows the reader that you actually care about whether he or she enjoys your essay. It is the beginning of forging a personal connection with your reader. You are now a living, breathing (cold) person with fears, anxieties, ambitions, and dreams. Your reader can start to get to know you on a personal. That’s a good thing.
Still, you do need to answer the prompt. You’re not applying to a creative writing program where a rambling first person retelling of the first time you tried Quinoa might actually be appropriate.
You DO need to highlight relevant work experience. You DO need to tell the reader why you’re a qualified candidate.
But you DON’T need to restated your resume line by line.