Initial thoughts: The first and most telling test I put essays through is during the initial reading. I try to scan the essay quickly and as I read I take note on how easy (or difficult) it is to get through, on how often I have to go back and read a sentence again, and on how clear a picture I have of the candidate by the end of the piece. The bad news is that when I put your first essay through this test, my thoughts were: "oh boy, were going to need to do a lot of work here."
The good news is that the last four essays were a totally different experience. They are wonderful! Your "accomplishments" and "failure" essays are particularly good - the topics you wrote about could not have been better choices. All these essays are going to need are a simple cleaning up.
What we need to concentrate on most, then, is your first essay. Dont feel disheartened at hearing this - this is invariably the most difficult question for students to answer. If I really scrutinize the essay, I find the following wonderful bits of information:
So: What we need to do to really give this essay punch is work on writing short, targeted sentences that are easy to digest and designed to give the reader a crystal clear picture of who you are. On a closer look, your structure is already pretty solid, which will make the job easier. But what we need to do is to make the structure really stand out so that each point is clearly made and easy to follow. It should consist, then, of the following three very clear sections:
For some more specific tips, see the paragraph-by-paragraph edits below.
I have not yet finished the sentence editing of the last four essays. I thought I'd send this one ahead of the others - I'll send the rest along as soon as they're finished.
Thanks, and I hope this is helpful!
1. What are your career goals? How will an MBA help you achieve these goals? Why are you applying to SCHOOL Business School? (Limit 1000 words)
Experiencing reforms and restructures in COUNTRY where economic landscape undergoes upheavals almost everyday is inspiring and valuable. Joining COMPANY - a top tier state-owned company in COUNTRY and also one of the leading shipping companies worldwide, I placed myself in this rapidly growing environment. My six different positions exposing to corporate strategy planning and finance management and my entrepreneurial experiences within COMPANY helped me to develop a strong set of analytical skills, a capacity for adapting to changeable situations and executing changes, and a solid insight of business operation within a XXX company. My four years' excellent professional performance was rewarded by a fast promotion pace which is far beyond my peers in COMPANY. And my career development has demonstrated my personal leadership and managerial potential.
[This is the most crucial paragraph of the essay, and the opener is the most crucial sentence. Id like to see it changed to a targeted statement about who you are. It can be anything that is short and contains a tid-bit of information about yourself, like "I joined COMPANY four years ago, after graduating [etc.etc]" Then move straight to the punch: "In the four years that I have been with COMPANY, I have held six different positions. This pace of promotion was unheard of before I had joined the company, and as a result, I am now the youngest deputy general manager in the history of the company. [is this true? It sounds good if it is!] In addition, I am a risk manager in charge of a 4 billion dollar debt portfolio." Then your next paragraph can begin either with a question, like: "Why, in the midst of this rapid promotion and whirlwind of career success, would I want to take time out to study for an MBA? The answer, for me, is simple." This voice might be too strong for you - feel free to tone it down, Im just giving examples.]
Now, as the youngest deputy general manager in COUNTRY and a risk manager taking in charge of over 4 billion USD debt portfolio, I am pursuing an MBA in SCHOOL Business School to achieve my career goals: advance to a senior-level financial executive in COMPANY and ultimately set up a financial service company to assist companies grow in a international business environment.
[I gave comments for this paragraph above. If you do begin as I suggested, then you will be able to combine the paragraph with the one below, simply by going straight into your first reason for wanting an MBA. To make it clear, you might even want to say: "There are three specific reasons" then list them as: First, (western business knowledge) Second, (finance knowledge) and Third, (multicultural exposure)." I dont know if you would want to cram it all into one paragraph, one for each point would probably be fine.]
All of my working experiences have been in a XXX state-owned company. Although my company is struggling to increase its competitivity in global shipping market, it is still limited to past years' business operation under state planned economy. With increasing business internationalization in COUNTRY, hard work and loyalty are no longer the only determinants of success. Future XXX multinational enterprises will hunger for managers who not only understand how to tackle problems in XXX business culture but grasp Western business operation and are equipped with new management concepts. This is especially the case for my company since management is one of the determinant factors of success in shipping service industry. I would like to refine my traditional management concepts cultivated in XXX enterprise by gaining systematic general management training in SCHOOL Business School and exposing to condensed knowledge of multifunctional business operations.
I also want to go beyond my current field of risk management and expand to a broader corporate finance area. By personally involving in bond issue, asset backed securitization and cash management projects, I developed my strong interest in corporate finance. In order to carry out higher financial managerial responsibility in whole COMPANY Group, I need in-depth financial knowledge. SCHOOL's flexible curriculum will let me concentrate in corporate finance. Through combination of lecture and case study, I will not only gain advanced financial theories but learn how to apply them into corporate operations in a dynamic learning environment. A financial executive in a multinational shipping company also requires an international perspective. My abroad living and working experiences opened my mind to different cultures. And I desire to have more opportunities to expose to cross culture experiences. Two years' MBA experiences in New York city, diversified SCHOOL student communities and study tours in foreign countries will definitely improve my culture understanding of the West. This would also substantially enlarge my overall perspective on life.
[Heres a suggestion for the above paragraph. End it with the point about desiring to have more cross-cultural experiences. Then you have a perfect transition and opening sentence for the next paragraph which will begin your reasons for wanting to go to SCHOOL specifically. You can begin something like: "Two years of experience in New York City with the diversity of the SCHOOL student community would be the perfect time and place for me to improve my cultural understanding of the West.] Then the rest of the new paragraph could contain your last two points (below) for wanting to attend SCHOOL. Then just add on the conclusion and Voila! You have a perfect essay!]
In addition, I am particularly attracted by the XYZ Club in SCHOOL Business School. Corporate executives are still male dominant and industry oriented in COUNTRY. And promotion to managerial position for XXX women is a slow and tough process. I would like to share my ideas with other women in XYZ, which will be a unique opportunity that I can not find in other programs.
I had an opportunity to get personally contacts with Professor NAME of SCHOOL Business School. His advice further enhanced my confidence that SCHOOL will be an indispensable step to realize my dreams. I believe that the combination of my past experiences, personal strengths and SCHOOL MBA program will prepare me well to achieve my career goals in future.
[As you can see, I didnt do sentence editing on this essay. Once you have finished rewriting it, I recommend resubmitting it for a brush-up on the language. The other essays do not need rewriting so Im going to go straight to the brush-up stage and send them when they're ready.]
2. In reviewing the last five years, describe one or two accomplishment of which you are most proud. (Limit 500 words)
I have been [helping to pioneer] a new [financial risk management business] for COMPANY [remove: "with other two colleagues"] since mid 1995. [Now, just three] years later, risk management has developed into an indispensable part of COMPANY's financial management and our team [has] expanded [into] a department of 12 persons with different dedicated divisions. I consider [the success of this department] as my most substantial accomplishment in last five years.
I am proud of this accomplishment [remove: "also"] because it gave me insight into [many of the] qualities that I value today: perseverance, initiative, and teamwork [remove: "spirit"]. Building [the] business took extraordinary tenacity and [an] entrepreneurial spirit to overcome the difficulties we faced. I still remember [when the] major obstacle at the very beginning came from some of the company's senior management. They [had] misconceived risk management as gambling since some companies such as COMPANY of COUNTRY [had] incurred enormous losses by inappropriate use of financial derivatives. [Had we not persisted] in exploring every avenue to convince them, we would not [have even] had a beginning.
As the business advanced and became more complex, teamwork played an important role in our success. Being a team member and later a team leader, I contributed to creating an environment that rewards collaboration in our team. Only by coordination can we complete different tasks in risk management; from trading to settlement, from stipulating hedging strategies to negotiating legal documents with couterparties, [and] from interviewing subsidiaries to reporting to senior management. Those experiences [have made me] a strong believer in [the effectiveness of] teamwork.
[But that is not all I learned from this accomplishment. It also taught me how] to translate concepts into actions and [that every] big picture is made up of small details. Starting from [little more than a brief] sketch, we took [some] tried-and-true approaches to hedge the [company's] foreign exchange and interest rate [exposures, using] various derivatives such as interest rate swaps, currency swaps and foreign exchange options etc. [Though we concentrated] on hedging activities [on this detailed level], we also kept our eyes on [the] broad picture. By developing a dynamically managing system [maybe you mean a "dynamic management system?], formulating a set of internal standard [operating] procedures and regulations, and setting up [a] global network, our team grew [remove "up"] progressively. We are now regarded by foreign banks as the best corporate risk management team in COUNTRY and [as a significant contributor] to COMPANY's overall effective financial management.
[Youll notice that I changed the order of the paragraphs. I did this partly because I think it makes more sense this way, and partly because I liked the strong close emphasizing your success.]
3. Discuss a non-academic personal failure. In what way were you disappointed in yourself? What did you learn from the experience? (Limit 500 words)
When the Student Committee announced that Student Representatives should be elected from the second semester, I was encouraged by my friends to compete for [the] position.
Actually I [had originally been] appointed as a Student Representative in my first semester. Although my good job had demonstrated that I was capable of [the] position, I was still not very confident about myself since this was my first time to encounter [an election.] [I was especially nervous about public speaking - from having to explain my ideas] to hundreds of students [to fielding possibly] eccentric questions.
On the election day, I was the last one to give [their] speech. After listening [to the] other [candidates, I doubted myself even more]. All of them drew ambitious and attractive pictures and [had quick-witted responses] to questions. Some even showed their [senses of] humor which [made them even more popular with the students]. [Before I knew it,] it was my turn. But I was plagued by my self-doubt and nervous since I [was now convinced that] my speech [lacked inspiration] and [was] full of trivial things. I just could not help thinking that those students [would] regard my speech as rubbish. Such negative [images] of myself totally controlled me as I [gave] my speech. My voice [dropped lower and lower until] finally almost nobody could hear me clearly. I totally failed this election.
After [the] election, the chairman of Student Committee discussed this failure with me. I was surprised to know that I [was expected to win] the election since most students were quite satisfied with my work before. Although my speech content was not so inciting as others' were, it was realistic and [better aimed] to service [the] campus community, which would [have gained] more support [from the] students. [Contrary to my beliefs, I had in fact been] in an advantageous [position,] but my [self-doubting] behavior [had] totally destroyed my chance of being elected.
This experience taught me the importance of self-confidence and [a] positive attitude. [I learned that the old saying: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent," is absolutely true.] Most failure occurs only when you do not trust yourself and loose your confidence. And excessive fears and self-doubt [will defeat you before you have even begun to take action]. [My] experience also [motivated] me to change my negative ways of thinking and [remove: "learn to"] intensify my confidence. [In the long run, my lessons paid off. Not only did I return to win the next election, but more importantly I have applied these lessons to every step of my successful entrepreneurial career.]
4. Discuss your involvement in a community or extracurricular organization. Include or explanation of how you became involved in the organization meet its goals (Limit 250 words)
Being a member of [the] Student Committee [at my university], I [was] personally involved in Project XYZ, a [project that] aims to raise funds and provide educational aids [for] seven [million] children who were not able to receive [a] proper education in COUNTRY.
We acted in two ways to help Project XYZ to meet its goal. One was fund raising. We arranged [a] series of activities such as donation [and] merit exhibition [remove: "in the university"] to raise funds to sponsor dropout children through Project XYZ. The other was to arrange undergraduates as voluntary teachers during summer [vacation].
I [accompanied] the first volunteer team in the summer of 1992. We went to a primary school in a small village in COUNTRY. It was in the mountain area and most of village children [had never left] the mountain. Assisting local teachers in the summer classes, we gave lectures to students to open their mind to the outside world. We also set up a small library using the funds we raised in the university.
'Today's Hope is COUNTRY's Future'. This slogan of Project XYZ highlights my belief that COUNTRY's future lies in good education. I continue to sponsor two students after my graduation to cover their elementary school tuition and to encourage them to proceed their education in whatever conditions. And I [plan to continue this sponsorship for as long as it is needed] in [the] future.
5. SCHOOL business school is a diverse environment. How will your experience contribute to this? (Limit 250 words)
As a SCHOOL business school student, my unique working experience and my XXX [remove: "culture"] background will enrich the program's diversity. [Remove: "As I wrote previously,"] My working experience within a typical XXX state-owned company [has given] me a solid understanding of business operations and multifunctional disciplines in COUNTRY. And working for COMPANY's overseas subsidiaries, I got the first-hand comprehension of how a XXX company operates in global market. These experiences are ones you [cannot learn from] a textbook, but they will enrich [the] business education [environment at] SCHOOL and will help other fellow students to [get] a good perception of the [best] ways to do business in COUNTRY and with XXX companies.
[Not only will my background] augment my peers' perspective [in the classroom], but [also within the] campus community and even in [the? - Im not sure what the "follies" are, but I have a feeling it needs a "the"] Follies. My experiences [working and living abroad have also] developed a unique appreciation [in me] of [other] cultures and beliefs. [I hope to help others] understand the importance and benefits of appreciating of [a persons] culture and philosophy.
[Finally,] being a strong believer of teamwork, I will not only give more synergy to the teamwork environment in SCHOOL but [also] help others appreciate the power and joy working together.
Youve made a great start on your essay - its engaging, well organized and persuasive. I especially like the "balance" theme that resonates throughout, as well as the leadership parable. I have made a host of comments below, and raised a few questions [all in brackets] on how polish the content, tighten the structure and focus, and fill out some under-developed themes. Best of luck!
1. What have you been doing since you previously applied for admission, and what impact have your activities had on the clarification of your goals? (Be as specific as possible regarding your five and ten year objectives and include steps you have taken to enhance your preparation for admission to Wharton.)
The ten months since my [previous] application to Wharton have been an incredible whirlwind of excitement, self-development, travel, and yes, even a little disappointment. Ive accomplished a few major goals, enjoyed a wonderful summer, learned something about managing people, and experienced a dramatic [new] role [in my career]. This year has been challenging, yet thrilling - frustrating, yet rewarding. My five and ten year goals of [____] and [____] remain the same. [Steven, for this sentence, consider refreshing the Admisssions Committees memory of what your goals are, and Wharton relates to them. For instance, you may want to develop this theme along the lines of the following: My respective five and ten year goals continue to be a senior finance position in the surety field and ownership of a successful surety firm. Whartons intensive training in quantitative analysis coupled with its hands-on approach to corporate valuations are core building blocks to my objectives.]
Career demands continue to place heavy [constraints] on my personal time, but this year I [have] made "balance" a major priority. [I am an avid golfer and spend much of my spare time working on my game. I hope to leverage years of coaching and more green fees than I can count by] playing in my fourth USGA national championship at the 1999 U.S. Amateur in Pebble Beach] ([k]eep your fingers crossed for me!). [During the past year] I [have] also hiked the Grand Tetons[,] played volleyball in Dewey Beach[,] and skied the Sierra Nevadas[.] It has been fabulous! In addition, I refinanced my real estate investments; found new tenants for one of the properties; and learned all about bankruptcy law [while serving] on the Unsecured Creditors Committee in a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy case. Volunteer work in support of the performing arts has also continued to be a passion of mine. I am currently organizing the annual fundraising gala for the Kennedy Centers Camelot Circle, and I am the Finance Chairman on the Board of Directors of ARTSupport, a non-profit organization. In addition, I [spent the spring putting nose to the grindstone and increasing] my GMAT score to 700[.]
On the job I have continued my development as a manager and [team player] while leading [the New York branch of] USF&Gs surety bond operation from Baltimore. During my two[-]year [delete leadership] tenure, [my division] has [more than doubled its] annual revenue[s] from [$3.7 million] to over [$10 million]. Managing [a multi-million dollar operation] has been a terrific [delete personal] learning experience[.] [My decision-making and analytical skills have grow enormously through the experience of underwriting claims of as much as $50 million, significant exposure for a surety bond firm.] [More] importantly, I have [broadened my base of] leadership skills [through several experiences].
This Spring, [in recognition of my successes and development as a team manager,] I was promoted to Regional Underwriting Manager. [Since then,] my role has evolved [even further] to include more Eastern Division management responsibilities and less New York City (NYC) management responsibilities. [In addition to managing a team of five people, I have had to step back, become a team player, and help the new NYC manager take over my former role.] [Steve, you can see I thoroughly hacked this last paragraph. It took me a few reads to understand what you were trying to say - and I think it benefits from the simplification. If Ive lost anything crucial, feel free to rewrite it again, but do try to keep it simple and clear.]
This [adventure in] leadership[, while often challenging, has been] the most valuable management experience of my [budding] career[.] [For the first time,] I have been forced to delegate and to [really] manage! I must confess that although [previously] I thought I was managing people, I was really just an incredibly busy [one-man band]. [Steve, consider replacing "control freak" with "one-man band," thereby preserving the message of your lesson but softening the delivery.] However, I was forced to confront this [delete poor] habit when the key person on my team left [to pursue] another career opportunity[.] The rest of my team [comprised] trainees new to the surety industry[.] [Rather than take the tough steps of managing performance, monitoring progress and delegating tasks, I assumed my well-practiced (but ultimately futile) role of handling everything.]
Then one day I had [an epiphany (actually, a crisis was brewing and immediate action was needed). Work was piling up, tempers were short and service was slipping.] I [simply] had to let go. [I decided to delegate almost all of my work to my junior staff, and spend] the bulk of my time providing direction and assistance. I soon discovered that [these] employees[, once trained and empowered, had boundless energy, creativity, and] were successful more often than not[.]. Yes, I had to "hold their han[d]" on challenging tasks and they made mistakes. However, my teammates were happier because they were growing[.] [The] clients [also] were happier because they were receiving enthusiastic [and efficient] attention. Frankly, I was happier because I was less stressed, and more importantly I was [putting into practice] a new skill, leadership.
[In recognition of my groups success and my growth as a manager, I was promoted to the position of] Regional Underwriting Manager [for] the Eastern [d]ivision[.] [As a manager of a ___ person staff, part of] my job is to provide guidance to [eight] field offices on business strategy and underwriting decisions. [A broad range of responsibilities and functions helped me to develop a macro perspective] on the surety industry rather than just a local, day-to-day [view].
[My] leadership lessons [over the] past year have [also] clarified [some] issues for me[.] First, I want to continue balancing my career responsibilities with equally satisfying personal [pursuits.] [I find that a life rich in pastimes and grounded in family] is critical for top performance[.] Ultimately, I still want to start and lead my own surety company because I love construction, I love surety ship, and I enjoy the challenge of leading others. However, [in order to succeed in this industry,] I need a broader perspective on business [and] additional experience managing people. [As such,], [first] I plan to earn my MBA at a business school [that excels] in entrepreneurial and international studies[.] [Afterwards,] I intend to return to the surety industry as an underwriting manager [or] executive[.] [I want to attend] Wharton [because it] is ideally matched [to] my personal and professional objectives[.] [Steve, elaborate more on how Wharton fits well with your personal interests]. [Once at Wharton,] I [plan] to use my summer internship as an opportunity to [apply my surety experience to a company with a completely different business culture, such as] a small, entrepreneurial, technology [firm.]
I have used the [past] ten months [as] an opportunity to address my [developmental needs] and to [bolster] my strengths. I have developed as a manager and [turned challenges into opportunities for growth and better] team skills. I [also] have had a [great time] this year with volunteer work, golf, and entrepreneurial pursuits[.] [T]hese activities have [enhanced my candidacy] for admission to Wharton, but more importantly, [have] better equipped [me] to make meaningful contribution[s] [in my personal and professional life, and] to the Wharton community[.]
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