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Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 3pm

Write and Wrong: Who Should Help With Your MBA Essay?

A second set of eyes on your MBA essay can go a long way in your MBA application

Are you one of those people who always wants to do things by yourself? There’s merit in getting things done without asking for help, but on the other hand, there can be further advantages to getting advice from people in the know, especially when it comes to your MBA essay

As an MBA applicant, you likely have a healthy drive and desire to work independently, but you will find that getting extra eyes on your MBA essay will be to your benefit. Others will likely catch at least a few details that you have missed from your hours of staring relentlessly at the same bit of writing. And if you ask the right person, he or she might have advice that will give you a leg up when applying.

DO ASK: Your nearest and dearest

An honest, unique and individual voice is one of the keys when it comes to representing yourself in an MBA essay - that’s why it’s imperative to get the opinion of someone in your network who knows you well. They will be able to assess when your voice is authentic and when you might be getting too general. Also, for many people (even MBA applicants) it can be hard to toot one’s own horn properly. Many are shy when it comes to touting their accomplishments, or they simply don’t think of certain things they have done as important enough to mention in their MBA essay. In particular, MBA programs are looking for people with leadership ability. Those in your network and who know you well will remember your great deeds and where you have taken the lead, and feel no compunction about getting you to crow.

DO NOT ASK: Everyone you know

Make sure to only ask a few of these choice friends to help - two or three is usually best. You don’t want to get too many opinions, because they will begin to conflict and gum up your essay. To choose the ‘right’ people in your network, start with those who have real writing chops. They’ll be able to help you shape your piece and fix any typos you missed. If you are not impressed with a friend's writing style, don’t ask for their help.

DO ASK: The old school network

Another good resource for taking a quick look at your essay can be people who have successfully gone through the program to which you are applying. It’s a great idea to try to network with alums anyway in order to ask other questions about the school. While you are talking with an alum, see if he or she will take a quick look at your essay. You know at least that they were savvy enough to write a piece that got them in.

DO NOT ASK: The people in charge

It’s not good form to ask MBA admissions professionals at the program for their advice. They have enough work to do as it is, and while they (of course) are the only ones who really know what they are looking for in an applicant, they want you to show them you are the ideal student for their next class.

DO ASK: Professional essay tutors

Are you having trouble starting or does your essay need some TLC? Professional essay tutors are available that can help you transform your essay. (Full disclosure, I work for one, EssayEdge.) If your budget allows for it, professional essay tutors can work wonders. These are very qualified people who have connections with admissions officers and have seen thousands of essays over the years (good and bad), and have real insight. There are essay tutor packages available for any budget.

DO NOT (necessarily) ASK: Esteemed professionals

You might think it’s a good idea to ask very successful professionals in the field, those whom you hope to emulate, to look over your essay - but that might not be as good of an idea as you initially imagine. Many people have come to their current work from other walks of life, and their MBA experience might be very different from the one that comes with the program to which you are applying. 

Though it seems tempting to take the advice of successful people in the business world, they may not really know you, your intended program or the academic climate. Therefore, their advice might not be very useful. Choose this person carefully if you must.


Ultimately, you are the master of your own fate, but by getting the right eyes on your piece (and avoiding hearing too many conflicting opinions) you will have the recipe for an essay with all the right ingredients.

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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.