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B-school Application: Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Essay

Written by  Piyush Bhartiya, MBA

Published on Sun, December 31, 2017 10:54 AM   Updated on Thu, July 22, 2021 7:48 AM   9 mins read

Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Essay

In words of Soojin Kwon, the Admission Director of Ross, “For me, the résumé is just as important as your essays. How you describe your experience matters. What you choose to highlight matters. Think of it as trailer of the movie about you. It needs to show there is substance there.”  As tiring preparing for GMAT is, writing essays for MBA Applications is equally time consuming.  The Résumé forms a critical part of your application. It is your introduction to the institution. So it should be impactful enough to make them want to know more about you through your essays. Your resume is a trailer of your career progression and accomplishments, your interests and extra-curricular activities. It will all be shown in detail in the essays- which will serve as the movie, elaborating and supplementing all the details of the trailer. Therefore, in order to make a good ‘first impression’, you need to invest your time and effort to make your résumé strong and impactful and worth consideration.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in B-school Essays

To create a winning MBA application, one needs to go beyond the mainstream and get inspired by real life, taking instances from innovations, successes, ethical dilemmas, workplace conflicts–that you can mine for essay inspiration. Below is a list of pitfalls one needs to avoid while writing an essay to ensure a successful first impression:

1.Do not try to create a Perfect Impression

A candidate must keep in mind that nobody is perfect. If you trying to write an essay and listing down things that the admission committee wants to hear then you are taking the wrong move. You cannot be the so-called perfect MBA aspirant. Therefore, keep things original. List your true loopholes. Provide them with versatility of your personality. The beauty of the MBA application process is that it allows candidates a chance for self-reflection. So be yourself, and write in a way that allows the admissions team to genuinely get to know you.

2. Avoid Obvious Facts and Repetition

Try to be creative while writing your essay. Do not repeat the facts you have already mentioned like the scores and your achievements. It sounds exaggerated and also gives an idea that you have fallen short of ideas. Therefore, use the essays to your advantage by presenting fresh content and build upon the objective data. Take breaks and write, give time to let the ideas flow in.

3. Stick to the Question

Sometimes it might happen that you go with the flow and avoid the main question asked. The implication of which will be that you will end up writing a perfect but an off-beat essay which again will be of no use.

Also, don’t answer with “what” when the question asks “how?” or “why?” Don’t think of the MBA word count as a blank canvass where you can fit in irrelevant pieces of information. You should understand that the essay is an insight into your understanding of this course and your failure to represent this, pulls you back.

The solution of this can be ask a friend to read your essay without knowing the question, and then ask them to say what they think you’re trying to answer.  Their response will let you know whether you’re on the right course.

4. Avoid Internet Influence

This is the most common mistake found in most of the b-school essays. It sounds like a no-brainer but actually serves to be the most important reason of rejection. Several schools have decided to get creative with their questions in recent years in large part to avoid this situation of recycled essays. Therefore, now if you want to increase your chances avoid using internet. Take help regarding the structure but do not blindly, copy paste. Be creative!

5. Avoid using Jargons

It is a myth if you think that using big words might leave a good impression. But what is the use if it is only you who is familiar with the language. The council is not familiar with your industry words. Therefore, write for a lay audience, and avoid flowery or stuffy language – use familiar words instead.

This is so because with hundreds of applications on their desks, the admissions staff has only a few minutes to review each essay. It should be immediately digestible and understandable.

6. Stick to the word-limit

Writing more would not increase your marks. As mentioned above, all the admission staffs have only a few minutes to give to each easy. A lengthy essay might make your essay less interesting and might go unread. Once it goes unread all the specifications are also left undiscovered. In addition to this, they even give negative marks for this aspect. Therefore, it is better to stick to the word limit. Be precise and impactful.

7. Avoid Over-exaggeration

This is very important to keep in mind that the admission council knows what is true and what is false. Therefore, try not to over-exaggerate things as it is likely to give a negative impact of you being self-obsessed and superlative. Avoid bragging and give them incidents which reflect your quality and why the content and facts set you apart.  Allow them to use their judgement in deciding whether you are good or fantastic.

8. Avoid seeking Sympathy

You are asked to be transparent but not a loner. Do not mention all your life incidents and do not emphasize precisely on your sad parts and failures. Reason being it will make you sound like a loser.

This aspect should only be used if the implication of it is positive later. It should present an idea that you are a better person because of the roadblocks you’ve hit in life.

9. Avoid Unstructured Presentation

Try to make your presentation as neat as possible. A structured essay with different sections makes reading possible and understanding better. Also it leaves an impression of you as an organized human being. Therefore, keep in mind it is not always the writing that is considered solely but other aspects too, that determine your admissibility.

10. Avoid last moment task

Writing an essay means a whole lot of time strategising, structuring and planning for the essays. If you decide to write an essay in the 11th hour due to any reason, you must then make up your mind that the outcome will not be that effective, provided you are a regular writer of it.

Writing an essay is an art and not everyone is capable to portray it in an effective way. In b-school essays especially you are required to put in a lot of energy to figure out facts and content to make it stand out. Thus, do not do a rush-job.

Also, proofreading is extremely essential. New ideas flow in the number of times you proofread. Moreover, errors are eradicated. Having a fresh pair of eyes reading through your essay everytime, catch pesky punctuation errors or grammatical mistakes that you may have missed initially even after re-reading and editing along the way. Therefore, take time to proofread.

Tips to consider while writing the essay

There are certain things an applicant is required to keep in mind and include in order to prepare a perfect essay-

  1. Focus on keeping the essay structured.
  2. Try to be more of objective rather than subjective. Include bullet points and avoid long sentences. This will make it easier for the reader to go through and add positive points too.
  3. Begin the bullet points with a strong action verb. Verbs make you sound like a dynamic individual.
  4. Schools are looking for well-rounded individuals, therefore do not hesitate to include 2-3 hobbies and community service activities that you feel passionate about and pursue in your non-work hours.
  5. Include the ‘Awards and Honors’ in your application to make it stand out and it will also supplement to your skills.

To make your essay error-free proofread it multiple times. Also, get it reviewed by others to ensure consistency and accuracy. Do your research, be creative and make your essay stand out. Pave your way towards the door of the final round-MBA interviews. Break through the minds of the Admission Committee and secure your position and this can only be possible when you will be as original as possible because fake stands no chance.

All the Best!

Do you want to suggest any tips for essay writing? Kindly do so in the comments section. Also, please share your suggestions and feedback.

Also Visit:

  1. Admission Essays – Complete Overview
  2. Admission Essays – Types of Essay
  3. Admission Essays – Essay Samples
  4. Admission Essays – Essay Guidelines


How do I apply for business school?

Ans. Steps to follow while applying for business school:
1. A complete record of your undergraduate.
2. Mention your GMAT score (if required)
3. Write 2 or 3 letters of recommendation.
4. Also, mention the Entrance essay.
5. If you’re a non-native English speaker, you need to give test of English as a Foreign Language(TOFEL) score.

How can I apply for B school in India?

Ans. Steps for applying for B school in India:
1. Submit an application for admission.
2. You need to appear for MBA entrance exam like CAT/XAT/MAT and score well.
3. After getting selected you need to appear for final round that is the GD-PI.
4. You need to accept the offer letter if finally selected.

When can I apply to Harvard Business School?

Ans. if you are applying for Harvard Business School you need to start planning a year before. For round 1 application deadline for class of 2022 is September 4, 2019, and Round 2’s deadline is January 6, 2020.

When should I start applying for fall 2020?

Ans. For applying for fall 2020, you should start preparing for mock tests. the ideal time for giving the exam is May/June. You should start shortlisting universities in March/April and by august complete your SOP and LOR.

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About the Author & Expert


Piyush Bhartiya

Author • MBA • 20 Years

Piyush values education and has studied from the top institutes of IIT Roorkee, IIM Bangalore, KTH Sweden and Tsinghua University in China. Post completing his MBA, he has worked with the world's # 1 consulting firm, The Boston Consulting Group and focused on building sales and marketing verticals for top MNCs and Indian business houses.

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