by Jonathan McEuen, guest blogger
Jonathan McEueun is a Manhattan GMAT grad who is off to Wharton this fall. We asked him to share his application process with us. What follows is Part 4 of 5 posts in a series about his experiences. You can read Part 3 here.
Be A Score With A Story…
How do you tell a great story in a few essays or a few minutes of dialogue? How do you make it compelling but not desperate, informative but not pandering? How do you make sure that your reason for applying to an MBA program comes through clearly, with goals that are both realistic and inspired?
It’s a lot for a couple thousand words to accomplish. But in sitting down to the essay-writing process, that’s the end goal (at least, it is by my opinion).
First, I should offer a disclaimer: I believe that compelling writing comes not from the process of production, but from editing. Thinking in ratios, I had to spend about 5 hours editing every hour’s worth of writing before I thought my essays stood strong. Given the workload most applicants are under, this necessitates the development of strong central narratives that are relevant to any application. This is far from a copy-paste exercise – it’s the process of defining yourself using experiences as tools, rather than just explaining the experiences and calling it a day. The stories I honed in on were those that expressed who I am rather than what I have done, in the hopes that this would allow the essays to be a very different set of information than my resume.
I worked under the imagined concept that someone had to read 2,000 applications before getting to mine. Their eyes were dry, their stomach empty, and their brain deprived of caffeine. The 500 words I put on the page had to feel different than those first million. They needed to draw the reader in and defeat any urge to skim and file. I’m sure this casts the process in an inaccurate and even apocalyptic light, but it was a great motivator for me.
So I wrote and rewrote. I had friends read these essays. I made sure they could give me the review of a skeptic and point out at least two weak points per essay. I won’t say the process was fun, but it sure helped.
Then Comes The Road Show…
Interviews are a rare opportunity on which, I suspect, few capitalize as much as they could. They offer the chance to add excitement to a printed resume, to expand on what the interviewer knows about you, and to express your skill, seriousness, and commitment.
Or, you know, to not do those things. Up to you.
I took what might be an unusual approach to preparation. I practiced telling stories in public, but they weren’t the stories I wanted to bring to my interviews – I told jokes, stories of past vacations or anything else I could think of that might be entertaining. I told these to friends, to audiences at open mic nights and “storyslams,” or at Pecha Kucha events where presenters get exactly 400 seconds to tell a story without notes. These might not seem like the typical arenas for practice, but they worked wonderfully and they helped me associate storytelling with fun rather than with application pressure.
I learned that, while content is of course important, most applicants will have great source material; the challenge then may be more in how to deliver that content, and that is where practice can show the biggest returns. So before you sit down with a recruiter or a current student for that interview, go find and mingle with other storytellers – download The Moth podcast, listen to NPR, attend a Storyslam or pitch night, or tell stories to friends. Whatever your approach, it might be the least painful interview prep you do.
Read part 5 here.
Jonathan McEuen is a Senior Associate at The Frankel Group, a life sciences strategy consultancy in New York and Cambridge, MA. He will be attending Wharton in the fall as a member of the Healthcare Management MBA Program.