Admissions Tips: The Essays


A. Plagiarize. A few foolish graduate applicants have been known to do this. Many schools are now using anti-plagiarism scanners such as Turn It In to detect plagiarism.

B. Go significantly over or under the set word count for each essay.

1. Don’t go over! Admissions folks read many essays so don’t be so wordy that we begin tuning you out (we are human.) Think of the word count as a way to really hone and focus each and every thing you have to say for maximum impact.

2. Don’t go under. It shows that you don’t think the essays are important and comes across as glib and perfunctory.

C. DON’T be generic! Each essay you write for each school you are applying to should be specific enough to only fit that school. If you can remove “Carey Business School” from your essay and replace it with “Other Business School,” and the essay would still make sense to an admissions officer at another school: it’s not a good essay.

D. Proofread and double-check. For example, we are the Johns Hopkins University (not John Hopkins.) There is a S in “Johns. ” Don’t talk about our 18 month MBA program. Our full-time MBA program is two years.

E. Answer the questions! By all means fit in what you want to share with us, but do it in a way that answers the questions asked, not the questions you wished we asked.

F. Use the optional essay, when necessary, to address any deficiencies in your application. A low undergraduate GPA would be a good example of this.


A. Tell us not only why you are a good fit and ready for a MBA program, but why you are a good fit and ready for OUR MBA program.

B. Tell us what makes you special. We want to know what makes you unique beyond your resume, academic history, and test scores.

C. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the program you are applying to and that you have a plan for what you want to get out of it.

D. Show that you understand and appreciate the unique culture of the program you’re applying to. If you’re looking to go to Wall Street and conquer a Fortune 500, you might not be happy at a school that focuses on Social Entrepreneurship (and vice-versa.)

III. Overview

A. Essays are perhaps the most subjective part of your application when it is evaluated. Interviews are also subjective, but interviews afford the opportunity for you to explain yourself better if you notice the interviewer looks puzzled or we ask a question. Not so with essays.

B. Bad grammar and poor spelling show in written English more glaringly than in conversational English.

C. Before the interview this is your first chance to tell your unique story and sell yourself. Your essays should make us look forward to interviewing you.