Yale School of Management

Five Tips for Perfectly Polished Essays

December 9, 2016

Most applicants leave the essays until the very last moment. While they can often induce more anxiety than the standardized test requirement (five tips on that here), the essays shouldn’t be feared—they’re one of the most powerful tools you have to win over the admissions committee. To help you present your strongest candidacy in advance of our Round 2 deadline of February 15, I’ve compiled five tips for perfectly polished (and powerful) essays.

1. Be yourself.

The essays are a chance to tell the admissions committee something that they can’t learn from the rest of your application. This also means that you shouldn’t tell us what we already know;  we already have your résumé and recommendations. Instead, use the essays to showcase your personality, passion, and character.

2. Answer the question—the entire question.

This one is simple, but often missed. Take the time to understand what is being asked by the essay prompt and why it is being asked. Open an application here to view our current questions. After writing your essay, give it to a friend or colleague and have them try to guess what the question was and what your answer is. If they’re struggling to get it, it’s time to rewrite. Once you feel that you’ve answered the question, make sure that you’ve answered it well. Specificity and being descriptive will satisfy the admissions committee more than a generic response they’ve read hundreds of times. Furthermore, it will make your essay more memorable and give the admissions committee better insight into you as a person.

3. Structure, structure, structure.

Structure is important—externally and internally. Make sure your ideas and thoughts are clear and structured logically, but also be sure that you signal this structure in your formatting. Your essay should flow logically and orderly and not be a stream of consciousness. The best way to make sure your essay is structured is to create an outline. This may seem elementary, but would you start building a house without a blueprint?

4. Proofread.

The admission committee might forgive a typo, but they’ll be less forgiving if you copied and pasted from another application and accidentally left the name of a different school in your essay.

5. The word limit is a limit.

It’s okay to be under the limit and it’s okay if you’re a few words over, but don’t expect the admissions committee to read an extra 500 words. Going over the word count doesn’t demonstrate how badly you want to be admitted—it just demonstrates that you’re unable to follow instructions. If you’re struggling to stay within the word count, rethink the scope of your essay and be more specific.

Reilly Hartigan
Assistant Director of Admissions, MBA for Executives

About the author

Rémi Moët-Buonaparte

Associate Director for Digital Communications