* A senior colleague who went to your dream school, your best friends, your mom / dad
Nothing is more disheartening – or confusing! – than getting negative feedback about your business school’s application essays from someone you trust, especially after you’ve tracked them down for months and waited for an approaching deadline. big steps.
Rest assured, it does happen. Often. On some level, it happens because you asked for it – by asking someone for honest feedback, chances are it’s not always positive. An element of ego and prejudice is involved. The person reading your essay doesn’t want to disappoint you; even if your essay is practically perfect, they want to add value and help you make it even better. Sometimes the feedback you receive is valuable; The fresh eyes of a stranger can often spot things you didn’t notice. But just as often you get a lot of noise.
Before you start reworking everything, take a deep breath and think about who you asked and their perspective.
A senior colleague who went to the school of your dreams
This can be the trickiest advice to do not Listen. This person went through the process himself. And they obtained in, so obviously they must know a secret recipe and now give it kindly you. You would be crazy not to take their advice, right?
Not necessarily. Alumni reviewers generally fall into one of two groups: (1) those who project (that is, they feel that the stories or themes they or they highlighted in their essays are the same ones you should highlight in yours) or (2) those who think you need to focus on proving your love for school. Consider the errors in each of these arguments.
The first – whatever strategy has worked for them will automatically work for you – involves a one-size-fits-all approach. Unless you live under a rock (and we’re assuming you aren’t because you’re reading this article), schools have told you that they value the individual and aren’t looking for a ‘type’. This is actually true! What “works” for one person doesn’t matter to the other because no two people are the same. So, when looking at an alumni’s comments, ask yourself, “Do these comments apply to my story, my experiences, my values and my motivation?” If you feel like your critic is trying to mold you into something or someone that you are not, resist the temptation to give in to their suggestions and remember that the most effective strategy in this process is to be true to yourself.
The second – insisting that you show more love for school in your essay – usually stems from the elders’ boundless love for their alma mater, which makes them want to see the same of you. They encourage you to re-praise the program, highlight special classes or experiences, and mention people you’ve spoken to. Now, all of these are fair play, and you will certainly need to convincingly express your interest in the application process, whether in an essay or an interview. But not all essay questions require (or leave space) that you include this type of information. And for those who do, conveying your interest goes beyond just praising the school or referring to certain classes. The admissions committee doesn’t want to read an essay about the quality of the school and what it offers; he wants to know more about you! You must communicate Why you highlight specific resources and how they can help you achieve your goals. Paint a picture of who you will be on campus – what will you do and why? Your alumni assessor might not think this reflects sufficient adulation, but the admissions committee will recognize that you have thought deeply and specifically about how you plan to leverage academics, community, clubs and d ‘other program resources to progress towards your goals.
Frankly, I would discourage you from asking for feedback from a school graduate who is the oldest of you on the job. This could cause you a lot of anxiety. For example, a few years ago, I was coaching someone on their “Why Stanford?” trial. He had his final essay read to a high-ranking and prominent alumnus. This former was really devoted to my client, wanted him to succeed and suggested “more love for GSB”. He rewrote the essay from scratch, mentioning more resources and adding more compliments while removing key elements from his candidacy. I pushed back, reminding him that Stanford already knew all about Stanford and was wasting an opportunity to tell school what he had to offer. He was in a bind and was afraid that taking my advice on that of the old elder would hold him back. I wouldn’t mention this story if he ultimately didn’t make the right decision (he submitted his original essay). He recently graduated and started his own venture capital fund, and while we are laughing about the incident now, the pressure he was feeling was real. So try to avoid asking, and if you can’t, do your best to ignore any projection or urge to amplify the love.
Your best friends
Your friends’ comments can be a bit easier to read. Usually, friends just want you to submit a “good” essay because they want you to meet your goal of being accepted. It sounds harmless enough (and true!), But their comments can still lead to dismay. The problem is that even though they themselves are currently enrolled in business school (in which case their comments may be similar to those of the senior colleague we just spoke about), they have little or no understanding of how a committee of admission assesses the applications. I find that friends often encourage you to use more “trendy” words (eg, Courage, incline, comfort zone – words that can certainly work in an essay, but including them doesn’t help you. earn no points) or focus more on work stories.
Although well-intentioned, this advice assumes knowledge of what the admissions committee is looking for. Yes, the MBA is a professional degree, but you are more than the work you do in the office. And while schools certainly want candidates who have “guts,” just saying you do isn’t as powerful as showing in your essay. (In fact, stating directly that you have guts can sometimes convince the school otherwise.)
Rather than asking your friends for their general comments, ask them, “Does this sound like me?” Immediately, the attention shifts to something that they are in a good position to respond to. Your friends should be able to recognize the “you” in your essay, and if they can’t, then their opinion is worth its weight in gold.
Your mom / dad
Our parents are often our greatest champions and our cheerleaders. Not only do they want us to be successful, but they also believe we deserve it. What I often hear from parents is that an essay does not sufficiently show the candidate. They want to incorporate more accomplishments and victories into the essay, believing that if the admissions committee sees a long list of accomplishments and accolades, they will naturally recognize the nominee as the incredible nominee they believe to be their child.
There are two things you need to keep in mind when considering this type of feedback. First, more isn’t always better, especially at the cost of thoughtfulness and self-awareness. Second, no one – and certainly no one on the admissions committee! – don’t like a swagger. You can use your resume instead to articulate many of your wins and accomplishments, but in your essay it’s much more important to show the “how” behind some of those wins and why you got there. The end result may offer less glare than what your parents want to see, but schools will appreciate this more nuanced approach.
When asking your parents for feedback, focus, as you would your friends, on whether the person in the essay looks like the person they know. Also ask them to keep an eye out for typos. As we know, parents are generally good at seeing the things their children miss, so you can use this talent to your advantage as well!
Best Practices for Getting External Feedback on Your Essays
Getting a second (or third) look at your essay is a good way to gain insight into what works and what might not. But too many contributions from too many people (or the “wrong” people) can be more confusing than helpful. Here are some tips on how to solicit feedback that will really help you strengthen your essays.
- Just ask a few people (two or three, max). The more feedback you receive, the more you will need to balance and interpret – and the greater the risk of your essay becoming one per committee.
- Ask people who really know you and focus on assessing the consistency between the person in your essays and the person they know you.
- Remember, when you ask for feedback, you will get it. So when you do, take the person’s point of view with a grain of salt. While an outside reader often has a good insight and can help you narrow down or modify something in a way that makes your essay more powerful, just as often the feedback offered will not contribute to the quality of your essay. Trust yourself to recognize the difference and ignore any unnecessary advice.
- Consider contact a professional for a second reading. Yes, I am biased in this recommendation, but having coached thousands of applicants over the years, I know how to help applicants bridge the gap between what schools are looking for and who they are as applicants. Putting the knowledge and experience of others to work for you can pay dividends.
- Be confident and remember that schools really don’t want a “guy”; they want individuals. Be genuine and sincere in your application trials. This is your number one strategy for getting into business school.
Wwith nearly 80 five-star reviews on Poets & Quants, Liza is one of the industry’s most sought-after admissions consultants. A former Bain & Company consultant and MIT Sloan graduate, Liza brings discipline, logic and curiosity to her coaching, enabling hundreds of success stories at schools such as HBS, GSB, Wharton and MIT Sloan. Her former clients cite Liza’s relentless commitment and positivity as critical factors in their success. Liza is also co-author of the new book, “What matters?” and “What’s More?”: 50 Successful Guides for Stanford GSB and HBS (and Why They Worked).
To learn more about Liza, Gatehouse Admissions or your MBA application, request a free consultation.