E2. What was your approach to brainstorming, shaping, and fine tuning your essays?

MBA essay-writing processes seem to correlate to personality. People who are highly organized, linear, logical thinkers outlined their entire application, created tables and matrices, and made sure that all boxes were checked. Creative, non-linear writers just sat down and let the pen go free.

Some people spent a lot of time brainstorming and getting feedback from friends. Others just dove into the essay writing and tried not to overthink it.

There is no right answer for this process. All of these processes were successful. Find the process that works well for you. Then listen to people who had a similar process to learn their secrets for doing it well.

This is also the most important and differentiating process in the entire application.

Start with a list of my best stories, characteristics

Jonathan Achenbach

Brainstormed a set of stories that addressed the main themes

Kahn Jekarl

Find the 6-10 stories from your life that show leadership, analytical ability, etc.

Gaurav Bhattacharyya

I had 5 stories, knew them well, and knew what I wanted to say about them

Steven Cho

Started with interesting accomplishments and stories about my life

Wendy Lu

Start with the best stories; flesh them out; pull out the themes; then map to the questions

Get friends, colleagues to edit

David Sauvage

I've done MBA admissions consulting; divide and conquer; brainstorm, pitch yourself some topics, pitch to friends and make them impressed

Tom Rose

Outline quickly, then start writing; get it out to reviewers very early on while the essay is still plastic

Eric Dittmar

Talk with your friends about consistent, unique themes in your life; that makes you compelling

Iterate many times; Take many months to work on them patiently

Jay Wong

Wrote 3-6 versions of the same essay to pull out the best elements

Alex Slawsby

The most critical thing was to aside a lot of time to do the essays; time to write, time to rest, time to get feedback

Mars Hanna

Write one draft, leave it alone for a week, edit again and again

Joel Conkling

Read the questions, think about them for 2 weeks, take notes, percolate

Outline each essay's main points; Outline the whole application (e.g., matrix, themes)

Daniel Siegman

Started by just writing, which didn't work; then mapped out the whole application

Masa Masuyama

Prefer to start with an outline, be more methodical; went out to trusted friends

Jason Liu

Outlined the whole application; created a matrix of themes and stories

For the natural writers out there

Sheila Krishnan

Sit at Starbucks and let my mind go free flow

Seth Familian

As a natural writer, took a individualistic and creative approach; a process of iteration and failure

Roy Johanson

Didn't want to over-think it; just started writing something coherent about myself

Think about what they are really asking

Benjamin Olds

Every application should be speaking about how you're on a path to a goal, and this particular business school is a crucial part of your path, and your path is to change the world

Ken Blewett

Think hard about what they are really asking with the essay questions; for failure, they really want to hear about how you overcame failure, your character

Harpreet Marwaha

The essays are a portfolio that explain why an MBA, why now, and why this school

Jay Palace

Always more effective if I outline first; what question am I trying to answer?

Look for overlap in essays

Elizabeth De Montigny

Grouped the questions that were similar; write the longest one first

Jason Mitchell

Looked at essays for all 7 applications to find overlap; wrote drafts; rested; got outside help

John Wilson

Looked for overlap in essays; then started with the longest application, pruned from there

Amazing and ridiculous level of over-preparedness

Ben Cohen-Leadholm

I started my application 2 years in advance; I shaped my life so that I could answer the essay questions