Essays form a very important component of a B School application.
(A) Purpose of the Essay
The role of the essay is to interpret some of the applicant’s past experiences for the committee, to define his vision of the future and to demonstrate that he is the kind of person who can set goals and make plans to achieve those goals. Essays provide the applicant with an opportunity to tell his story, to embellish his professional achievements and to highlight his personal uniqueness. The essay should do three basic things:-
(1) It should communicate the applicant’s uniqueness and his differentiation from other applicants.
(2) It should highlight his intellectual ability, career plans, and four professional and personal traits, namely managerial and leadership potential, innovation, team work and maturity. In addition, the following elements can also be introduced in a subtle manner, where relevant, to make a positive impact: Community service, international and cultural exposure and diversity through participation in a variety of activities.
(3) It should demonstrate the applicant’s fit with the university/school.
(B) Characteristics of Good Essays
A good essay must be well written and organized. It should be liberally sprinkled with relevant examples from the student’s personal as well as professional life, which give it cogency. There is nothing as effective as well-placed examples to lend credibility to an essay.
Example of a bad essay:
Western management models are no longer unknown to the Japanese asset management industry. But that does not mean that people with decision-making power are not resisting them in potentially damaging ways. My company still has a seniority-based system of promotion and approval. This is good because it allows those with the most experience to have the most power, but it has also forced our company to adapt excessively slowly to changing global markets. Younger employees in fund management, marketing and analysis often see even relatively conservative proposals for innovation rejected because their superiors believe that the best way for Japan to solve its financial problems is to retain the economic models that brought about its growth after World War II. Top executives do want to use innovative new technologies, but only to make existing new products and distribution channels work more effectively. My goal is to improve decision-making in the company so that it can become more competitive in the new global market.
Example of a good essay:
I want to help strengthen the Japanese asset management industry by incorporating the most useful elements of the western models. My experience at Kito Life Insurance exemplifies this need. Our top executives have spent decades making our company one of the largest life insurance providers in the world and have introduced computer systems to make data management more efficient. However, younger staff members see computers as something more. For example, we might use our reliable computer as sales branch networks to allow customers to pose questions online and obtain valuable account information 24 hours a day. I believe that because our corporate structure favours age and experience over new ideas, it is difficult to use technology to create markets rather than just making us more effective in old ones. The new structure that I envision rewards successful new ideas, not just seniority, with promotions and merit pay.
In the second essay, the applicant makes all the background information relevant to his/ her particular situation, explaining only specifics that even an intelligent reader would not be likely to know. For example, the applicant explains the specific attitude of the staff members at his/her company, which is known only to him/her, and which explains his/her situation.
Example of a bad essay:
A good example of my leadership ability is when I raised the sales of widgets in our department by 50% above the previous year. Our widget sales had been consistently increasing, but at the same time the market was expanding very quickly. Therefore, in spite of our yearly sales increases of 10%, we were losing market share and not increasing our sales as much as some of our competitors were. I took the initiative to do market research and through my persistent positive action discovered how the needs of widget customers changed because of the increasing competition and decreasing quality differences in the market. At first, my superiors hesitated to use my proposal because it contradicted established company policy, but I persisted with convincing arguments based on my experience of testing my ideas and my positive attitude, and sales of widget increased. The department began using the method I proposed to increase department-wide sales, and I was promoted as the section chief. This experience shows my analytical skill and initiative, which I used to promote the products of my company and my career.
Note: This essay contains some details in the form of numbers (50% and 10%), but what do the numbers mean? It is important that you interpret the numbers and make sure the reader understands what the number says about you. The essay also makes many claims about the applicant, but these claims could have been made by anyone. There is no evidence that the applicant has any of these skills.
Example of a good essay:
Contributing to a 50% increase in widget sales in our department between 1999 and 2000 is the most recent example of my leadership and initiative. The yearly increase in our widget sales was 10% through the 1990’s, but the widget market was expanding by an average of 80% per year. Competitors were actually taking market share from us. Increased competition had made it impossible to attract customers with the superior quality of our products, so I proposed that we emphasize customer service more. My superiors rejected my proposal, relying on our established brand name to keep attracting clients. I did some research and discovered that independent studies had found negligible quality differences between our widgets and those of our three main competitors. I also surveyed a cross section of the widget buying market and discovered that if quality and price were equal, service was the most important consideration in deciding on a widget provider. My research and proposal became the basis for our department’s new customer service policy and resulted in a drastic increase in widget sales and my promotion as the section chief.
Note: In this essay, the applicant puts the numbers in context and explains the steps he or she took to accomplish a goal. The reader gradually realizes that this applicant has analytical skills, initiative and a positive attitude. It is also clear that the applicant is persistent and persuasive. The story itself convinces the Admissions Committee that the applicant actually has these skills. It may also surprise you that this essay, while it contains much more detail, uses exactly the same number of words as the first essay.
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