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Your Application Essays- Brainstorming

A excellent set of business school essays is usually one or two months in the making. And the better the brainstorming, the faster and better the essays turn out.

Set aside a section of your Admissions Notebook for brainstorming. Every few days, for 30 minutes or so at a time, go Back over your past, and jot down unedited and uncensored notes.

Your notes should include images, memories, bits of dialogue, self-evaluation, and insights. Don’t edit any of it; don’t try to "write a draft." The idea here is to dredge up anything from your personal and professional past that might have a place in, or prompt ideas for, your essays. Your brainstorming should assess:

Admission Essay
  • ALL COLLEGE COURSEWORK: Go through each and every course on your transcript. What did you learn? Read? What stayed with you? How did the course change you? You’ll be amazed at what you come up with.
  • EACH PAID JOB: Don’t just jot down "What You Did." Go beyond the sheer facts. What were your successes, and why? What were your failures? Why did they occur, and what did you learn from them? How did your responsibilities and knowledge base change? How did the job change you?
  • EACH VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE: This includes college extracurriculars. What were your expectations? How were those expectations affirmed or challenged? How did the experience change you?
  • TRAVELS: Get specific. If you think that a sojourn overseas taught you a lot about other cultures, don’t just write that down. Dig. Be specific about what you learned about other cultures. Support your assertions with evidence.
  • SIGNIFICANT LIFE EXPERIENCES: In short, anything that happened to you (or that you made happen) that influenced your personal and professional life is grist for the mill.
Your brainstorming will release lots of ideas and memories that won’t belong in your essays. But it will also reveal themes, patterns, and insights, that will make your essays truly personal and truly superior.

No one’s application was ever damaged because the applicant did too much hard thinking about his or her past. But many applications every year are damaged – fatally! – because the applicant does too little.

The best applications convey a sense of change and growth.

Unfortunately, most essays seem to deny that any change or growth ever occurred. The applicant seems to think that s/he sprang full blown with the same values, beliefs, ideas, and procedures since the age of one. Nonsense! Acknowledge that you have changed — for the better! — so that in your essays, you can explain how those changes have occurred.