The Kenan-Flagler Business School at University of North Carolina has begun a series of tips from the MBA admissions office, the first of which tackles the essay portion of the application.
Unless you’re a natural writer, the essays are perhaps the most stressful component for most applicants. Below, Kelly Lynch shares three things the admissions team at Kenan-Flagler will be on the lookout for.
Tell your story: A compelling, dynamic essay is always much more memorable than staccato, anecdote-free one. We read thousands of essays each year, and it’s much easier for us to forget one that merely adds words to the bullet points on your resume. Tell us a story that compliments the point you are trying to make. It is much more plausible for us to connect with you in your essay if we can connect the dots via a personal story about why you want to come to Kenan-Flagler and how your past experiences distinguish you.
My two cents: Avoid any attempt to manufacture a memorable impression. Simply by allowing your individual personality to shine through, you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicant pool. Remember, excellence comes in many different packages, and sometimes small examples can brilliantly illustrate your distinctive contributions.
Proofread, proofread, proofread: Though we are sure you’ve been told numerous times not to create a generic essay and simply change the school name… Do not create a generic essay and simply change the school name. I cannot tell you how many times we have read essays saying how “not UNC Kenan-Flagler” school is the perfect fit for someone. Woops. Also, even if you think you have read your essays enough times to check for spelling and grammatical errors, read them again. Punctuation errors are incredibly easy to make, but incredibly easy to fix, so make sure there aren’t any in your essays! Finally, UNC’s business school is Kenan-Flagler. Make note.
My two cents: After months of writing drafts, seeking feedback from friends and family, and changing everything about your essays, don’t just “accept all changes” and upload your essay documents. Make sure you have cut and paste your essays into an entirely new document that was not used for drafting.
Be yourself: Though the best time to show us who you are is in the interview, don’t let that stop you from being yourself in the essays. We want to read the essay and feel like you are talking to us, not a computer, so try to write it that way. If, however, your voice feels like making the essay longer than the stated maximum, (either 500 words or 300 words), reel it in. We have the maximums listed for a reason, so don’t ignore that and think, “oh, a few words over won’t matter.” Stick to what’s listed or below.
My two cents: Admissions committees want to see focused essays, and holding to the word limit guidance demonstrates you can follow directions.
The Round 2 deadline is coming up on December 7th at UNC Kenan-Flagler, so be sure to bookmark the school’s MBA admissions blog for posts on recommenders and resumes, coming soon.