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Monday, December 15, 2014 at 10am

Word Count 101: Four MBA Application Essay Tips

MBA application essay tips

It's not uncommon for students to go a bit overboard when it comes to writing their MBA application essay. After all, this is your big chance to give admissions counselors a sense of who you really are beyond your GPA and college transcripts — why let a little something like a word count get in the way of that?

The truth is, schools put a lot of thought into their MBA application essay guidelines, and disregarding them can reflect poorly on you. With potentially thousands of essays to sift through each semester, admissions counselors count on applicants' ability to follow directions. Here are some MBA essay tips to help you follow those directions, whether the essay guidelines ask you to stick to a single-spaced page, 500 words or 5,300 characters.

So how can you express yourself in a limited space? This is one of the biggest challenges facing applicants, and one that I'm frequently asked about as the managing editor at EssayEdge. Follow these four MBA application essay tips to make your admissions essays fit in the space allotted without compromising their quality:

1. Create a detailed outline

If you follow just one of these MBA essay tips, make it this one. This isn't the time to wing it. If you don't have a specific plan for your essay, there's a good chance you'll write too much, and then you'll be faced with the onerous task of chopping it down. Besides being frustrating, this can be extremely time-consuming and it can significantly impact on the quality of your work. Instead, start out with a detailed outline that includes the key points you plan to incorporate into your essay, along with the projected length for each section.

2. Focus

I get it — there's so much you want to say. But the MBA application essay doesn't need to capture every skill, achievement, and extracurricular activity you've racked up over the course of your life to date. Think of it more as a snapshot from your life as opposed to a documentary film that covers every moment from your birth. Pay close attention to the essay prompt and write a response that answers it clearly and fully — without straying into self-serving, unrelated topics.

3. Rein in your words

Having a diverse, well-rounded vocabulary is definitely a good thing. Being overly loquacious is not. Resist the urge to show off and focus on being concise. Avoid wordiness and obscure expressions, and be aware of unnecessary phrases that rob your prose of energy (‘I feel that’, ‘the point is that’, ‘in order to’, ‘the reason why’). Also, don't waste space on subtle redundancies like 'dreams and aspirations,' 'challenges and difficulties,' and 'objectives and goals.'

4. Seek a second opinion

Still having trouble reaching your word count? One of the best MBA essay tips is that it can be difficult to view your own writing with an objective eye, so it's understandable if you have trouble pinpointing areas that could be cut from your essay. If you're struggling, take a break and pass your work along to a friend, advisor or essay-writing expert who can help you trim the fat.

Ryan Hickey is the managing editor of Peterson's & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.