By this point, you will have categorized your essays, educated yourself on the criteria for scoring top marks, and gathered some of the Content Building Blocks for your first drafts. It is time to progress from theory and preparation to application and start writing your essays.
We have broken the writing process into seven steps and mapped out a six-week writing calendar that will work well for most applicants. The MBA Prep Steps™ process assumes that you are applying to three schools in a particular round, which has proved to be the practical maximum for essay writing for most applicants in a six-week period. With more lead-time or exceptional writing abilities you might be able to apply to more schools.
For the first two weeks of our recommended timeline, you will focus exclusively on the essay questions of your first school. We recommend that you choose a school that has a comprehensive set of essay questions. By doing so, you will be able to leverage the work you do on School 1’s essays for the other schools.
In the third week, you will begin working on the essays for School 2. The following week, you will incorporate the essays for School 3 into your writing efforts. We have assumed you will need fewer weeks and fewer writing hours for Schools 2 and 3 because you will be able to take advantage of work you have done on the prior essays.
The table on the next page summarizes our recommended writing calendar. Below the table we briefly describe each step in the writing process.
Create Content Building Blocks & Outlines for School 1 Essays
The good news is that you have been assembling the Content Building Blocks for your essays from the beginning of the MBA Prep Steps™ program. Content sources include:
- Your Application Journal
- Your Discover Your Strengths Exercises
- Your Career Goals Exercises
- Your School Research
- Your MBA Application Resume
Now, it’s time to synthesize all these Content Building Blocks into outlines for School 1’s essays.
Great essays start with great outlines. Trust us! Imagine for the sake of this MBA Prep Step™ that the admissions committee has instructed applicants to submit outlines instead of essays this year.
For five-paragraph essays the admissions committee is going to decide to accept or reject you based on your essay thesis statement, the topic sentence of each body paragraph, and a brief synopsis of the examples that you plan to discuss in your body paragraphs. For narrative essays, they don’t want the whole story, just your STAR Framework.
Continue working on your outlines until you feel you have an essay outline that you would be proud to show an admissions officer. This is a challenging exercise, but if you stick to it, you will end up with much better essays.
Write Rough Drafts of Essays for School 1
You should compose your rough draft for a single essay in one or two sittings. Minimize distractions and spend some focused time on the rough draft, as opposed to working on it ten minutes here and there.
Second, remember that it is called a rough draft for a reason. Your objective isn’t to write a perfect essay; it’s to get the content of your outline onto the page in a semi-coherent fashion. Now isn’t the time to be overly critical or to try and write a perfect sentence.
Third, keep the essay question, your Content Building Blocks, and your outline close at hand to ensure that you stay on topic. Nevertheless, don’t be afraid to change course as the essay or story starts to emerge more clearly.
Finally, keep the word count in mind, but don’t worry if your rough draft is a little over or a little under. You can focus more on meeting the word count during the revising stage.
Write Draft 2 of Essays for School 1
Rewriting your essay is a crucial part of your writing process. Put your essay away for a couple of days and then read it objectively with a fresh eye. If you do, you’ll see that there is always room for improvement. The secret to good writing is rewriting!
Use your Valued Qualities, Fit Qualities, and top marks criteria to determine how well each essay is serving the purpose you intended it for. Ask yourself, if the essays, taken as a whole, provide ample evidence of general management potential, career readiness, leadership, fit, and difference.
Chances are you’ll encounter one of the following five problems at this phase of your writing process:
- You didn’t answer the essay question – clearly, completely, or at all.
- Your essay doesn’t convey the message you want it to.
- Your organization needs improvement.
- Your essay lacks clarity.
- Your essay lacks self-reflection.
Diagnose the problems with your draft and then address them one at a time in your writing process.
Seek Outside Review of Your Essay Drafts for School 1
After you have completed your second draft content revisions, but before you undertake your style and grammar revisions, seek an outside review of your essays.
The questions for your editor are:
- Did the essay or story feature your Fit Qualities and key strengths?
- Do the essays as a whole provide evidence of general management potential, career readiness, leadership, fit, and difference?
- Are your essays scoring “top marks” relative to the criteria we provided for each essay type?
- Did any parts of the essay or story confuse them?
- Did they need more information to better understand the story?
- Were they satisfied with the conclusion?
Just about every applicant enlists some sort of editorial support. Some applicants rely on friends and colleagues while others hire a professional editor. The advantage of asking one of your peers to edit your work is that he or she knows you well and is qualified to judge if the essay accurately reflects your strengths and personality.
A professional editor, such as the ones available at MBA Prep School, has the benefit of perspective after reading hundreds of MBA essays so they can help you greatly improve the content and style of your essay. Furthermore, you will have the ability to specify the turn-around time for essay editing when you hire a professional editor. Visit the MBA Prep School website to learn more about working with one of our professional editors.
Write Draft 3 of Essays for School 1
In your third draft, you want to address the problems that were identified in the outside review of your essays. Concentrate on the clarity of your ideas and ensure that your essay is meeting all of the criteria for an outstanding essay as measured by how well the essays feature the Fit Qualities of the school you are applying to.
Revise Style and Grammar of Essays for School 1
As you are closing in on your final draft, you want to focus on improving your style and grammar. The three secrets to a polished, professional essay are clear sentences, correct spelling, proper grammar usage, and correct punctuation.
If writing is not your strong suit then you should seek guidance from colleagues who are talented writers or from a professional editor. Even if you do enlist outside help, don’t just blindly accept their edits. Seek to understand the nature of the edits they propose, and you will become a better writer in the process.
Write Final Drafts of Essays for School 1
At the final draft stage, you must proof your essays very carefully. Your essays are a representation of you and you want them to sparkle.
Enlisting proofreading help from friends and colleagues is crucial once you have written your final draft because you’ll be too close to the material by that time to spot problems with grammar and punctuation. We suggest that you ask at least two other people to proof your final drafts before you submit the essay.
Write Your Essays for Schools 2 and 3
The process for writing your essays for School 2 and 3 is exactly the same with one exception. You will be building on the hard work you have already done in your School 1 Essays.
Look for opportunities to repurpose elements of essays you have already written, but do so with caution. Never force fit an essay response from another school that does not answer the new essay question. Use your best judgment, but err on the side of creating a new essay if you are in doubt.
When you do repurpose an essay, remember to tailor the “new” version based on your knowledge of the “new” school’s specific Fit Qualities.
Unit Review: Follow a Writing Calendar
- We broke the writing process into seven steps and mapped out a six-week writing calendar that will work well for most applicants.
- Writing essays for three schools in a particular round is the practical maximum for essay writing for most applicants in a six-week period.
- Choose a school that has a comprehensive set of essay questions for your first round of essay writing.
- Your aim is to synthesize all the Content Building Blocks you have created throughout the process so that your essays become a powerful representation of your goals, strengths, reasons for applying, and potential contributions to the class.
- Rough Draft: Concentrate on capturing the main ideas and getting the story on paper; now isn’t the time to be overly critical or to try and write a perfect sentence.
- Draft 2: Ensure that your essays, when considering as a group, provide evidence of general management potential, career readiness, leadership, fit, and difference.
- Outside Review: Seek input from others before you start perfecting style and grammar. Consider using professional MBA essay editors for additional perspective and objectivity. See the MBA Prep School website for more information on our editing services.
- Draft 3: Address the notes from your outside editors.
- Revise Style and Grammar: Concentrate on creating a polished, professional essay set that you are extremely proud of.
- Final Draft: Proof carefully and then enlist proofreaders to catch the mistakes that are difficult for you to see.