How to connect with Adcom and get them to really like you?
Use your own voice!
One of the biggest traps that most MBA applicants fall into while telling their story is using language that attempts to prove that they’re serious MBA-level candidates. And they often try really hard. We’re talking smart sounding, wordy, fancy, jargon-filled language and phrasing that screams, “Look at me! I’m MBA quality material! I’m serious!”
Whatever these applicants are trying to achieve, it entirely works against them. Such writing comes across as braggy, desperate, over-the-top, lacks self-awareness and is socially inept. It reads coldly and makes the writer sound like some sort of off-kilter robot, rather than a warm person that adcom would actually like to get to know.
Lets take a look at the following two examples to better illustrate the difference:
Example 1: My work in Kenya helped elucidate my potent interest in the manifesting opportunities within the nascent economies of other such developing countries for the benefit of their populace.
Example 2: After working in Kenya, I became really excited about the idea of helping developing countries create more economic opportunities for their people.
It goes without saying that Example 2 is what we’re aiming for here. Why? Because we can actually hear a human voice in our heads as we read the sentence. We can see an actual person in front of us, instead of some weird robotic-like automaton.
Example 1 is totally confusing upon a first read. It’s just a hodgepodge of big fancy words strung together that don’t immediately make sense. And you could never imagine a person actually speaking this way. Moreover, if the writer did speak this way, you probably wouldn’t want to meet him or her.
Over the last few years, top schools including Harvard and Columbia have asked questions where they’re even asking you to speak directly to your section mates.
Likeability matters a lot when it comes to getting that elusive invite to interview. And how do you get adcom to like you and want to meet you? Use your own voice.
Ah, but how do I use my own voice, you ask? Simple. Literally use your own voice.
After each line you write, read it out loud to yourself. Would you speak these same words to someone in front of you? Is your language big and wordy? Simplify it. Are you using an excessive amount of work jargon that only your close associates would understand? Cut some of it out. Leave most of it for your resume.
And don’t be afraid of using conjunctions like “that’s,” “I’d,” “haven’t” etc. You might be thinking that they don’t sound fancy enough for an MBA-level personal statement? Good. People actually speak this way in real life. And your writing will be more personalized this way. The litmus test is: if you wouldn’t say it out loud to someone, don’t write it. The goal here is not to impress. The goal is to connect.
But you’re not done yet. After you complete your draft, read it out loud to a loved one, family member, friend, or colleague. Read it as if you’re telling them a story. If anything you say sounds awkward, instruct your audience member to groan, laugh or react with displeasure somehow. Then simplify your language and start again.
Doing this storytelling exercise will not only make your writing warmer, more relatable, and easier to understand, but it will also get your audience to really like you.