Business school essays are one of your only guaranteed opportunities to connect with the admissions committee in a genuine way. Here are some tips to help you maximize your business school essays.

  • Think Holistically.

Before you start writing a draft, think about your whole candidacy. Do you have low numbers or erratic work experience that might be cause for concern? On the other hand, do you offer great professional insight, or compelling personal perspectives? Look at your candidacy through the committee’s eyes, and use your business school essays to highlight strengths, clear up potential confusion and mitigate areas of concern.

  • Start Early.

Essays take longer than you think. I always worry when people tell me that they are going to spend a few days writing them, after they are done with their GMAT. Give yourself enough time to brainstorm topics and to revise your essays multiple times.

  • Answer the Question.

One of the things that happens when people don’t start early enough is that they wind up writing an essay that they try to adapt for every school, even when the topics aren’t exactly the same. This is always a mistake. Business schools recognize content that is more responsive to another program’s prompt, and they will think that their school is lower on your list. In addition, you risk telegraphing an inability to follow directions, as well as missing the opportunity to share information that they are specifically looking for.

  • Proofread.

I still cringe when I think of some of the typos that I saw when I was the Associate Director of Admissions at Tuck. Everything from “And in conclusion, my dream is to attend HBS” to notes in the margins from friends, urging the writer to lie about why they were fired. Grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes also undermine your case.

Used correctly, business school essays are one of your most powerful tools. They are also one of the most underestimated components of the application, and can literally make or break your candidacy. Start now, and leverage the business school essays to stand out from the pool.