5 reasons elite mba applicants fail the failure essay


Published on

5 Reasons Elite MBA Applicants Fail the Failure Essay

Published in: Education, Business
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

5 reasons elite mba applicants fail the failure essay

  1. 1. http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/5 Reasons Elite MBA Applicants Failthe Failure Essay
  2. 2. By the Amerasia Consulting Group,Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting5 Reasons Elite MBA Applicants Failthe Failure EssayMBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com
  3. 3. Today, we are going to be breaking down the failureessay and the biggest reasons why everyone blows it.This is particularly relevant to the season, as we begin totake on our usual batch of 2+2 candidates, which meanswe are about to do the HBS accomplishment-failure two-step that is a tradition as old as time (or maybe it justfeels that way).We have a very specific approach to the accomplishmentessay that transforms run-of-the-mill answers into HBS-worthy submissions, but were going to keep that lockedin the vault. The failure essay though ... we owe somethoughts to the masses, just as a public service.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com
  4. 4. We have a phrase for what we see over and over andover again on failure essays ... its called "failure." Yes,people are "failing the failure essay," and they are doing itacross the board, regardless of how awesome theyotherwise are as candidates. In fact, I anecdotalevidence would suggest that the top of the heap - the"elite" applicants - are blowing this worst of all.We are going to walk through the five biggest reasonswhy people fail on this essay.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com
  5. 5. 1. Lack of a Thesis Statement. To be fair, this is item #1 for every essay.Its mind-blowing how many essays are written, composed, edited (Imlooking at you, fellow consultants), and then submitted without ever oncehaving a thesis. Please, everyone, go back to third grade for a minuteand re-learn how to write a five-paragraph essay. It always, always,always starts with a thesis statement. If the question is: "What issomething you did not do well?," then the answer should be: "SomethingI did not do well was X." Overly simplistic? Sure. Unoriginal? Ofcourse. EASY TO READ AND UNDERSTAND? YES!!!! Admissionsofficers have to read hundreds - even thousands - of files. Make theirlives easier, not harder. If they ask you a question, answer it. Evenbetter, show them that you are answering it by composing a thesisstatement that puts them at ease, right from the start. Further, having athesis will ensure that your essay is focused on telling one singular storyor constructing one idea - preventing you from straying all over theplace. You will have plenty of time to be original and interesting in everysentence that follows; just keep things simple to get it started.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com
  6. 6. 2. Lack of a True Failure. This is probably the biggest issue, to be honest,especially when a school is trying to measure maturity and self-possession. Do you have the confidence and the guts to "be real" withwhat you write about? Thats half the test here. I honestly dont believepeople understand this basic idea. If you arent able to stand up andsay, "yeah, I screwed up in this case," you arent really going to be ofinterest to a reader. 95% of the failure essays we see are soft-shoeingit; leaning on tiny errors or totally forgivable sins. The goal of this essayis not for your to prove how close to perfect you are by summoning upthe lamest possible mistake ever. Its not even *really* about your abilityto learn lessons and make changes in your own life. Thats part of it,sure, but the real core thing being measured here is how mature you areand how willing you are to account for everything; success and failurealike. Whats something that makes your stomach turn, even now?What name or place evokes feelings of shame for you? Im not askingyou to admit crimes here, but it should be something you wouldnt talkabout at a cocktail party. If you wimp out on choice of content, youvealready punted the question and wasted precious real estate on yourapplication.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com
  7. 7. (Note: there is no person on this earth who has never made a mistake, in some aspect of hisor her life. Its taken me some digging and some prodding at times, but every client Ive everworked with has "gotten there" eventually. If you are reading this thinking "but I really donthave anything bad to write about!" you are not being honest with yourself, or you are fallingvictim to the next item on this list...)3. Fixation on External Measures for Failure. This ties in with Item #2,but is a more understandable mistake that people make. Its hard to havesympathy for someone who gets denied to an elite MBA program becausethey write, "My biggest failure was sitting in my boss chair in a meeting" or"my biggest failure was not understanding that this guy from this othercountry was going to be unethical and rip me off." Come on. However, wecan sympathize with people who drop the ball simply because they confusean external measure for being an appropriate gauge for failure. Heres therule of thumb: a failure should be measured by the weight of your guilt andshame, not by the ramifications felt by others. Here are two examples toillustrate this:Example 1 - "My greatest failure was the time I worked 72 straight hours and, in a state oftotal exhaustion, put the decimal in the wrong place on page 120 of the report, costing thecompany $100 million."MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com
  8. 8. Example 2 - "My greatest failure was the time I ruined a relationship with my best friendbecause I valued short-term thinking and convenience, rather than doing the right thing."In one example, a company lost $100 million. In the other, afriendship was broken up. Obviously, if we are going by external stakes, thefirst one sounds like a much bigger deal. However, external stakes dontdicate the magnitude of the failure. Being a selfish friend because you aretoo absorbed in your own life is a much bigger personal mistake than puttingthe decimal point in the wrong place simply because no human being canwork for 72 hours straight.4. Improper Focus on Lessons Learned. This error goes both ways:some essays transition way too fast to lessons learned (basically skirting rightpast the mistake) and others never make the transition. You must haveproper tone and balance in this essay. Stand on your own two feet rand behonest about making a mistake, but dont forget to explain how you learnedfrom it. From the "best friend" example above, that essay has to transition to"I learned to prioritize people over my schedule and to make decisions with along-term view."MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com
  9. 9. If you dont eventually say what the crushing failure taught you, why areyou writing about it? If the growth isnt on display, we can (must?)assume that it either didnt make an impact (meaning the internal stakeswerent high enough) or you are still doing the same things (obviouslydisastrous).(Bonus: Lessons Learned is also a great test on whether you are picking a true failure. Takeour decimal point example: what lesson could you even learn? "I learned not to let my bossmake me work 72 straight hours anymore"? "I learned that when I am so tired that I cantkeep my eyes open I need to have someone else do my work for me?" I have no idea howsomeone would even "learn" from a story like that. Which means that while it sucks yourcompany lost $100 million, its a bad story for an essay.)MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com
  10. 10. 5. Poor Structure. As with Item #1, this could really be a flaw with any badessay. Structure is so incredibly important in essay writing and yet fromwhat I see (largely judging from the ding analysis type work I do),structure is just horrid, across the board. Having good structure makes iteasy for the reader to follow along, it ensures proper balance in what youwrite about, and it just generally is the only way to write a good essay.Put it this way: Ive never seen a quality failure essay written as a haiku,starting with a quote, or consisting of either one or nine paragraphs. Agood failure essay is going to feature four parts, almost every time, andbe either two, three, or four paragraphs - depending on word count. Youmust have a thesis and then a statement of what the mistake was (Part1), typically followed by an explanation of why you made that mistake(Part II), then how and what you learned from the experience (Part III),then, finally, how you adopted those lessons (Part IV). There are differentwrinkles to this - some ask you hypotheticals or for evidence of adoptingthose lessons or even how you will continue to grow at School X - butthats the basic flow.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com
  11. 11. It requires having a plan and sticking to it. Obviously, this is a self-servingobservation (a whole bunch of people reading this will turn to use for helpwith doing just this), but its not somehow less true just because it helpsour business.Overall, our challenge to the applicant pool is to treat this essay with respect.Respect the question, respect the reader, and respect yourself. If you arehedging or trying to use external consequences to prop up somethingweak, take the essay and crush it into a ball and throw it away. Godeeper and be a real person who has had real failings and isnt afraid totalk about them.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com
  12. 12. If you are in need of help - and willing to "go there" - we can definitely assist youin crafting a failure essay that vaults past the submission of your peers.The one good news is everyone is botching this is that you can shine bycomparison. Obviously, that is where we come in, so email us atmba@amerasiaconsulting.com.http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/