Hello! We are happy that you are filling out an application. On page two of the application, you will be asked to answer the following questions:
Essay Question #1: Why are you interested in participating in the Perry Outreach Program?
Essay Question #2: What are your long and short-term educational goals?
Here are some tips that will help you formulate your answers and hopefully increase your odds of being accepted.
PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD! And when you think you have the perfect essays… PROOFREAD AGAIN!
This may sound obvious, but our admissions committee sees hundreds of applications each year with terrible spelling and grammatical errors that could easily have been prevented. This includes using capital letters whenever they are called for (your name, your address, your parent or teacher’s names, the name of your high school, etc.) It is very hard to take an applicant seriously and believe that she cares about participating in the program when she clearly didn’t take the time to capitalize her own name or proofread her essays. A single run-on sentence as an answer is equally unimpressive.
You should use a computer with a keyboard and NOT a smartphone/tablet to submit your application. If necessary, write your essays in a separate word processing program and copy and paste your essay into the provided text box on the application.
Tip #2: Think about it!
Take some time to reflect on your answers. It is better to think of and communicate a couple of good reasons you would like to participate in the Perry Outreach program than to give a one sentence answer with your first thought.
For example, when you first hear about the program, your first response to “Why would you like to participate in the Perry Outreach Program?” may be “My teacher told me about the program and it sounds fun.”
While that may be the immediate reason you would like to participate, it does not sound, to a second reader, as though you have given it much thought. It also does not differentiate you from applicants who really don’t want to apply (and sadly, we do get those too). Lastly, when starting an essay with “my teacher,” you automatically shift the focus from yourself (the person we want to know more about) to someone else (who we’re sure is very nice, but isn’t trying to get admitted to our program).
Tip #3: Flesh out your ideas.
Full, well-constructed paragraphs are far more likely to gain you admission than one sentence answers. Again, see tip #2. We want to see that this is something you are genuinely interested in doing. This is also the only place where you get a chance to let us know that you are a real human being beyond having a name and attending a high school. Tell us something interesting about what has inspired you to look at engineering or medicine as a career! You have reasons… just like you have reasons you do not want to be something else… like an astronaut or a cat wrangler… or maybe you do want to do those things and still think Perry can help… tell us about that too! (No, seriously, if you want to be a cat wrangler and think the Perry Program would help you achieve that dream, we’d be interested to know how).
Tip #4: Use complete sentences!
When discussing your short-term and long-term educational goals, it is far more impressive to describe these goals in sentence format rather than as a list. Even more impressive is if you include things you are going to do to achieve those goals.
For example: “By studying each night and arranging time with my teachers outside of class to discuss my progress once per week, I intend on graduating at the top of my class. This will help me achieve my long-term goal of being accepted to a top university to major in cat wrangling.”
Also, try to avoid using abbreviations for things that may be very familiar to you, but not familiar to someone else (AP and IB are commonly understood, but other specialized designations for classes you may attend are not). It’s probably impressive, so write it out! Then everyone is on the same page.
Tip #5: Most importantly: Be Yourself!
Answers that are true to you are far easier for the reader to understand. Don’t make up stories or make true stories “more dramatic” in hopes of grabbing someone’s attention. That said, you should also not be afraid to talk honestly about any hardship you may have encountered in your educational journey or home life. Tell the truth of your experience and the true you will shine through!
Hope these tips help! “May the odds be ever in your favor!”*
*Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2008
One way to blow your MBA essay on leadership is to talk about your leadership skills in general terms without providing examples or elaboration. When answering the leadership question, your goal should be three-fold: Identify your specific leadership traits, show examples of those attributes, and reveal the impact you had.
1. Identify Your Leadership Skills
First, look critically at your experiences. Can you think of instances in which you led people to action? In what ways did you motivate? Have there been situations when you’ve stood up, taken the reins, and won the trust of others? What steps did you take? What specific talents and qualities did you access to inspire and persuade? Don’t think about the broad term, “leadership”; focus on 1-3 of leadership’s sub-qualities: initiative, vision, integrity, empathy, listening, responsibility, reliability, planning, etc.
2. Show How You Lead
When detailing your leadership experiences, feel free to think outside the box…er, the office. Not every example needs to originate at work, and don’t concentrate solely on classic hierarchical situations with titles. Instead, consider less obvious examples, like inspiring your college cheerleading squad or coaching your brother’s Little League baseball team. Still drawing a blank? Have you ever initiated and organized a clothing drive? Managed a band? Led a fundraising initiative? Campaigned for a local politician? Strong leadership examples come in all shapes and sizes.
3. Reveal Your Impact
Top MBA programs want to admit people who make a difference, who leave a void when they depart. The recent outpouring of tribute to Steve Jobs at his resignation from Apple testifies to his super-sized contribution to his company, his industry, the world. You don’t have to reveal that kind of impact. However, the best way to show potential for significant impact in the future is to show you have contributed in the past. How did your leadership make a difference to individuals? To your organization? To your community? What was the impact of the experience on you? How did you grow from it?
These three elements comprise the essentials in a strong MBA leadership essay. Include all three to craft a winner. Leave one or two out, and well, you could be blowing it
By Linda Abraham, CEO and founder of Accepted.comand co-author of the soon-to released book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Linda has been helping MBA applicants gain acceptance to top MBA programs since 1994.
Our Series On Perfecting Your MBA Essays: