1. Don’t adopt a dispassionate narrative
Research publication is all about reporting facts and conjectures from an objective perspective. A hands-off dispassionate way of narrating things is required for unbiased scientific presentation. But MBA essays are a different ballgame altogether. Here it is about your story, told from your perspective, the way you see it. Use the research-writing style here, and your essay is pretty much DOA.
For your MBA essay, you absolutely have to bring in emotion and involvement. You must identify with what you say – about your background or goals or experiences – and connect with what you write. Don’t just report the facts on an incident like it’s a news report; narrate it from a personal perspective – what were you thinking, why did you do it, how did you feel about it. After all, it is you that you’re talking about. In the end, your essay must ooze passion all over.
2. Don’t qualify your statements with riders and caveats
As a scientist, you’re trained to perpetually qualify your statements with caveats of every order. “The presence of Dopamine may be related to increased synaptic activity sometimes observed under ideal conditions that could indicate possible neurotoxic interdependence.” (Here’s a rider: I totally made that up). For research, this is good – you’re hedging your bets, simply because you don’t have absolute irrefutable proof that you’ve discovered the Holy Grail. But put this in your MBA essay, and it would suck.
In your essays, among other things, you need to display clarity and conviction. Putting in those riders and caveats aren’t going to help. They’ll show indecisiveness and inability to make a clear stand. Instead, what you want to do in your essays is to state your claims clearly and stick to them with conviction. “In 10 years’ time I will set up my own consulting firm in New York.” Do you know for sure that’s what you’re going to be doing 10 years from now? Of course not. But that’s not the point. The point is you’ve got a plan, and the conviction to stand by it, and the clarity to do what it takes to make it happen.
3. Go easy on the jargon
“I developed the WBS of my SAP implementation of the dot NET protocol using Agile methodology” Whoa sloooow down. So basically you write computer code that does awesome shit. Right. So just say it in simple English, so that everyone can understand. The people who review your MBA app aren’t computer wizards, or for that matter biology wizards or physics wizards or anything. Far from it. They’re normal people who like to read normal English. If you’re about to write something that’s even remotely technical and jargon-esque, pause and ask yourself: “Will my mother understand this?”
4. Play it up, not down
A good scientist always understates the obvious. That’s how we’re wired (yep, me too, past tense). That’s how things work in the scientific world. But in the world of the MBA, things work differently. You’ve got to market yourself. You’ve got to play up your achievements and importance. No, don’t lie, just play it up – as in, bring it into focus, make sure the admissions committee realizes how big a deal it is. To you.
Now these are just the basics. Coming from a scientific or technical background you’ve got to be alert to possible minefields while writing your MBA essays. Remember, the essay you write is for someone else’s reading, not your own. The measure of your essay’s success is how much sense, beautiful sense, it makes to the reviewer. And the indicator of that success will be your interview call.