Divyan Gupta, an MBA graduate of Hult International Business School class of 2009, gives TopMBA.com his top five MBA essay writing tips.
1. Believe: make sure you understand the essay requirements
More often than not, we end up 'believing' that we understand the requirements for an MBA level essay. It's critical to understand the number of essays needed and the topics with their word limits (if applicable). This ensures that you know your 'starting point' without which all your efforts will be wasted. If need be, make a table (use pen and paper or MS Excel or MS Word- whatever you are comfortable with) listing down the essays, their topics and the specific instructions around them including deadlines. Use that as a starting board. Another useful tip is that most universities in their application process do mention what makes for a successful essay- read them to familiarize yourself with those expectations upfront.
2. Visualize: create a mental outline of the essay
Once you know which essay you have to start with, spend some time thinking about it and 'visualizing' it. This is the most critical part of the essay writing process - more important than the actual writing itself - as this helps with the structure. Think about what you want to communicate in the essay and why it will be relevant to the essay topic. Are there any examples that you want to mention from your personal or professional life and if yes why? What makes you the candidate for being picked up over others? If it helps, jot down all these 'mental fragments' on a piece of paper without worrying where or how to structure them. That comes later.
3. Don't stop: write the first draft
Now that you have some idea of what you want to write, it's time to get down to writing the essay. I would suggest that you write down the essay without falling for the temptation of stopping and correcting what you are writing. Write it in one shot - this becomes your first draft.
4. Keep it simple: edit the first draft
After you have written the first draft, read it to see if it's communicating the message that you want. If not, identify the sections where it's falling out of line and the reasons why you think so. Is it an incorrect sentence phrasing or the wrong thought at the wrong place? It's advisable to print out the essay and, with a pen, mark the areas where you believe corrections are needed. Note down the ideas/ examples that you want to mention. It also helps to show your essay to family members and friends who are close to you. Ask them to read it and give you feedback on how the message in the essay is coming through. Also try to resist the temptation of using too many 'big' words, unless they fit in the context of what you are writing. But don't try to fit the context around the word just to showcase your English language prowess. Keeping it simple but lucid is more powerful than making it complex.
5. Write the final version
With all the feedback and your own critical assessment, you should be able to write the final essay. Don't worry about making it the 'perfect' essay. This is because what your standard for perfect is might be completely different from that of the person(s) who will be reading it. Instead, concentrate on the essay coming across as your 'personal story'- something unique. It's ok to have reiterations on what you write until you are satisfied with your final version. However do remember to avoid 'paralysis through analysis'- don't over analyze your essay! As long as the essay is free of grammatical mistakes and has a compelling story coming through in a concise manner, you are in good shape.
Hopefully the above will help you be more structured in your essay writing. Here's wishing you the best of luck for your MBA application!