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Brainstorming Your Advantages and Main Ideas for Application Essays

Every prospective student applying for a degree faces the same challenge: preparing an essay. While a CV is essentially just a combination of bullets that show your experience and the references fall on the shoulders of your referees, the essay has to be written solely by yourself.

Before you begin

Every prospective student applying for a degree faces the same challenge: preparing an essay. While a CV is essentially just a combination of bullets that show your experience and the references fall on the shoulders of your referees, the essay has to be written solely by yourself. The problem here is that it is not an ordinary mathematical or logical essay, where the quality and outcome fully depend on your knowledge in the particular field. Admissions Essay writing is a creative process wherein you need to convince Admissions Officers that you are an ideal candidate – the one they are looking for – by highlighting your strong motivation, your strengths, and your competitive advantages over other applicants.

It is not as frightening as it may seem

While I fully understand that writing an excellent essay without any prior experience is an extremely complicated process, I want to assure you that is not “Mission Impossible”. Thorough brainstorming, quality preparation, and adopting a serious approach towards this matter will help you to collect the right ideas and transform them into a quality draft. After that, leave it for a few days before polishing and improving it. Ask your friends and family to provide honest feedback and advice on how to strengthen your essay. Then, revise it once again.

What Is Brainstorming?

Any creative process requires time, and writing an essay is no exception. You need to collect all your thoughts. Recall your childhood, studies and work, remembering any interesting moments – call to mind all of your life! To do this, you will need to brainstorm.

“What is brainstorming and why should I spend my valuable time on it?” you might ask. While the Oxford dictionary gives a simple definition as “A spontaneous group discussion to produce ideas and ways of solving problems”, I would say that it is a far more interesting process. Brainstorming for application essays is a process where, step by step, you pull out from the dusty boxes of your memory all the interesting facts with all the detail you can muster. You recall every possible aspect of your life and then decide what might be important for the essay and what will not. Brainstorming for preparation of an admissions essay can be divided into two parts: brainstorming for the CV and brainstorming for motivation.

Part One: Don’t Forget the CV

While brainstorming mainly serves to reveal your motivation, your CV helps you recall your strengths and advantages over other applicants. Before writing your essay, also prepare an actual resume that will display your achievements. In the resume, do not forget to state what you have achieved and the outcomes of your responsibilities. Show that you worked hard and specify your results; display how your work affected the company. The scope of the strengths highlighted by this process will be focused on the work field, however, your CV could also draw attention to your leadership activities or even hobbies.

First, recall your work experience and your achievements. Then consider your education. Try to remember how your undergraduate degree flew by. Were you an outstanding student, or perhaps you participated in some conferences? Did you lead an active student life, being engaged in numerous activities, clubs, and/or organizations? If you have advanced education or training courses, it might also give you an edge over the competition, so be sure to note it. Recall how your capacity for leadership shone – whether you led a team during extracurricular activities, organized an event, managed volunteering activities, or initiated a teambuilding session. These all serve well to illustrate that you meet the “leadership” criterion. Last but not least, jot down any additional information: this might include hobbies, interests, volunteering, travel, books you like to read, or your most memorable adventures or unique experiences. Include here everything that proves that you are a well-rounded candidate with personality.

Part Two: Show Your Motivation

After creating a CV, move onto brainstorming for your motivation. Here, you must justify that you are motivated enough to study at the university of your choice (and excel there). Additionally, the Admissions Committee expects to hear in your essay about the reasons you applied for their program in particular. Explain why you chose the school, what you like about the specific program or major, what you will do after the graduation, and how the program will help you reach your goals. Ask yourself the following questions and compose comprehensive answers:

  • Why do you need this program? What is the driving force that made you consider applying?

  • What are you planning to obtain from the program? Any particular knowledge or skills?

  • After you graduate, where do you want to be?

  • How will the program affect your employment?

  • How to do see your professional development? Do you have some ambitious goals for the future?

  • What are the main reasons you chose the designated university, rather than any other one?

  • Are there any particular courses that attracted your attention? Why?

  • What can you bring to the university and program? This should be something you can share with other students.

Spend some time mulling over these questions. There has to be a connection between your answers. Your answer to “Why Harvard?” should not be something like “because you are Harvard”. Your answers must be deep and well-developed. For example, you might approach this question by explaining that you met a Harvard graduate and when discussing the school, the graduate shared a lot of interesting information about how the studies are conducted and how the program helped build their skills and knowledge. Provide specifics. For the question, “What are your post-graduation plans?”, you should mention what industry you want to work in, preferably specifying a company name. State what position you are targeting and how the knowledge or skills you obtain during the degree will help you to get this position.

Creating a First Draft

After you have brainstormed your motivation, add the CV you created earlier. Combine them; they have to complement each other and show your full profile. If you are saying that you need this program because you are looking for the career advancement, mention that you worked in that field before and reached a certain level of success, but lack some specific knowledge, which impedes further career development. If you state that you have in-depth competence in a given field and want to share this knowledge with your future classmates, do not forget to share where you got such expertise.

When writing an essay, the important part is that it has to be coherent; each paragraph has to flow naturally from the previous one. The essay should be written in plain language; do not overload it with difficult words and abbreviations. You are not trying to impress the Admissions Committee with your linguistic knowledge, you are simply trying to show why you are a good candidate for the program. Reading your essay, Admissions Officers should be able to clearly understand the information therein; they should have no questions.

Final Words

Here are some final words for you:

  • Try to make the essay as personalized as possible. The more personalized it is, the better it displays your profile.

  • Leave a few days for the essay – a week is even better. A great essay is formed after several rounds of polishing and amending.

  • Dream big! When writing about your future plans, do not be afraid of coming off as overconfident. The Admissions Committee is looking for ambitious people and future influencers, not ordinary employees

Despite all of this guidance, in some cases, you cannot be sufficiently engaged in preparing documents for the application by yourself. Sometimes, even after reading all the available material on how to write an essay, in order to secure your application, it is better and more reliable to address admissions consultants for professional help. With years of experience of working with top universities, consultants will be able to help you to deal with this challenge. In this case, MBA Strategy is exactly the company that provides the assistance you need.

MBA Strategy is an admissions consulting company with over 15 years of experience assisting talented candidates to become students of the world’s top business schools. Our achievements:

  • 1,000 customers with 700+ GMAT scores

  • Over 500 students admitted to top US and European business schools

Anna Tokarieva is an MBA Strategy consultant. She is an expert in school selection, profile assessment, brainstorming, and polishing application essays.

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