News, advice and resources for business school applicants

Admissions Tip: The Long Essay

Essay content you’ve polished for one school often serves as a great starting point for the next application, but as we’ve often said, customizing this text for the school in question is key.  One particular challenge we see applicants struggle with each year is effectively expanding a short essay they’ve written for one program (such as Harvard’s 500-character short answer on career choices or INSEAD’s 300-word career essay about one’s long- and short-term goals) in responding to a question on the same topic but with a longer limit.  With this in mind, we’d like to offer some pointers on converting condensed comments to more extensive remarks.

1) Expand in proportion.  When taking an existing response as a starting point for crafting a longer document, one good rule of thumb is to build upon each subject to more or less the same extent.  While elaborating on your work to date might involve less time and work than the more research-intensive “why School X” discussion, it’s generally prudent to maintain balance among subjects and provide all of the major pieces of information a school requests in equal measure.

2) Maintain focus.  One frequent issue with long essays is that they sometimes lack a clear sense of direction.  To ensure that the reader is able to understand the relevance of your remarks and follow the connections among the various ideas, it’s a good idea to include transition sentences at the beginning of each paragraph that tie the subsequent remarks and examples to the topic of the essay and clearly state how certain statements relate to the question.  This exercise also serves as a check for the applicant in making sure that all of the details in the essay are related to the subject.

3) Finish when you’re finished.  While it’s important to take advantage of the opportunity that each essay presents to share information about your candidacy, you shouldn’t feel obligated to reach the upper end of a suggested word limit/range if you feel that you’ve already addressed the question and presented a full picture of your interests and background.

Good luck to everyone composing essays with an eye to R2 submission!  For more tailored guidance on essays in particular or the application process in general, feel free to contact us.

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Posted in: Application Tips

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