My Adcom Essay Review: A Punch to the Gut

I’ve spent the past few weeks reaching out to my network and searching for people to review my essays.  One of my contacts actually turned out to be a former admissions committee member at a top school.  I had no idea of this fact, but he agreed to give my essays a review.  Since I hadn’t finished any additional applications yet, he suggested I give him my Haas essays which I had already submitted.  I thought it would be great to get this feedback, even though there was nothing I could do about this particular app at this point.  (In the back of my mind, I was thinking he was going to be impressed)

A day after I sent them, I got all of my feedback in an email.  It wasn’t great.  While he really liked two of my essays, the commentary around the others were either lookwarm or downright negative.  It was as if I completely “missed the point” on some of these essays.

Now,  if I were defending myself, I would argue that my essays definitely presented a well rounded candidate.  Regardless of any technicality within the questions, the essays provided a complete and positive view of who I was.  And above all, my application and my story would stand out as unique compared to most others.

But looking at his feedback, I can only say that he was right.  Some of my essays didn’t address the question on a pinpoint basis.  There were definitely ways I could have improved it.  For some essays, I did lose sight of the question and was more focused on telling my story.  Reading his feedback, especially after I had submitted my apps already and had other MBAs review them as well, was definitely a tough pill to swallow.

Would a school value a candidate with tighter essays over someone who was more of a complete package, but lacked some precision in their essays?  Is it more important to tell a great story, or answer a question properly?  It’s hard to say.  I feel as if my confidence and my view of the admissions process has been jumbled.  But I’ve definitely learned quite a bit from this experience:

1.  I can’t spend forever writing my essays.  Iteration is key because at some point I’ll get tough feedback that will require me to essentially rewrite my essays.  I need to focus less time on writing that one “perfect” draft and focus more on getting drafts to tough reviewers.

2.  My contact really cares about my candidacy.  The fact that he ripped my essays, and the fact that he’s agreed to review my upcoming essays is proof of that.  (He’s not charging me or anything like that)

3.  I need to let go of my pride when it comes to writing my essays.  It’s difficult when you write what is essentially your life story and someone tells you it’s not good enough.  But at the end of the day, my goal is to get into business school.  I need to be able to take the feedback I’m given, regardless of how drastic, and try to improve my candidacy towards my goal.

9 thoughts on “My Adcom Essay Review: A Punch to the Gut”

  1. I agree with:

    1. I can’t spend forever writing my essays. Iteration is key because at some point I’ll get tough feedback that will require me to essentially rewrite my essays. I need to focus less time on writing that one “perfect” draft and focus more on getting drafts to tough reviewers.

    It’s like you spend hours trying to make it perfect to then only find out that 3/4’s of it needs to be scrapped. But I wonder if it still helps ya know?

  2. Exactly. I think getting that proverbial “punch to the gut” is a good wake up call because it’s easy to become so passionate about telling one story that you lose sight of the ultimate goal: getting into business school. Getting this additional perspective is good because at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to make the call on what goes to press.

  3. Ditto the feeling!!
    I got my essays across to one of my friends at an Ivy League and he totally ripped them apart.. it was as if I was punched in the gut and beyond. I had missed the point on some of them and some of them were downright negative.
    now am fretting and wondering why I didn’t send my previous essays to him in the first place..
    My ding probability now stands at 95% for the two schools I applied to, unless a miracle saves me 😉 and I dont think a miracle is expected anytime soon.
    Good luck and am sure you will get through to your top choice!!

  4. Valuable feedback is valuable even after the fact — it means that your next batch of essays — or further down the line, the essays you’ll need to write IN business school — will be sharper and more concise. Telling a good story is crucial, but so is answering the essay question. But you are right — for your Haas application at least, it is out of your hands for now. All you can do is hope for the best…and maybe next time seek feedback before you hit send!

    Good luck! We’re rooting for you!

    Sarah P./

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