GMAT Club Essay Review 3: Describe yourself in 200 words or fewer
Thanks for reading and welcome to the third post in GMAT Club’s Essay Review Initiative brought to you by Critical Square. Every week or so throughout the summer we’re going to review, comment, and tear apart a real essay from last year. The streets will run red (with ink)! So grab a cup of coffee and read on – this is a great way to see how our admissions consultants, and effectively, an admissions committee looks at your essays. What we like, what we don’t like, and how to avoid mistakes that can sink your application.
If you missed the first reviewed essay on Career Goals, you can catch up [here]!
If you missed the second reviewed essay on Story, you can catch up [here]!
So, without further ado, our third essay!
Our third essay is an “off-the-beaten-path” essay. It’s one of those strange essays that don’t fit neatly into a predefined notion of what an application essay should be and that can be difficult for applicants. This one is short, ambiguous, and filled with traps. The question seems simple enough – “describe yourself in 200 words or fewer”. It is anything but. And, as you’ll see as we break down this essay, the applicant really botched certain parts of it. In a BIG way.
(By the way – this is the IMD essay prompt and it’s being reused this year so FYI!)
So let’s dive into this week’s essay and, at the end, you’ll find some general advice you can apply to these kinds of essays – regardless of the school and the exact prompt!
“In Adversity, lies Strength”
I grew up listening to stories of my father’s struggles as a young boy in supporting his family after my grandfather’s untimely death. His journey from a destitute child to the highest serving rank in Indian police has always inspired me to push boundaries, deriving strength from adversities.
Ok, so we’re 52 words into a 200 word essay (> 25%) and we’re talking about this applicant’s father. Don’t get us wrong, it is fine for the applicant to be inspired by his/her father! We sure are. But that isn’t the point of this essay. The point of this essay is to talk about the applicant. Let’s keep going with this example for the purposes of this edit but so far, for those of you keeping track, 1) we’ve wasted a lot of real estate and 2) we haven’t really said a whole lot.
To adversity I owe my greatest strength - my creative mind-set. A silent victim of sexual abuse, I became an unconfident, withdrawn child.
Discreetly, I made collages out of discarded objects and found an unhindered voice in design. Transforming inconsequential things into beautiful products helped me regain my optimism. I decided to become a designer who would design not just products & organizations but the very lives of people.
Our comments here are a reflection of the structure and the tie in this has with an application – NOT with this applicant’s coping mechanism. This individual has clearly shown bravery coming out the other side of this horrific situation with their morale and personality intact and that is quite an accomplishment.
But, that said, this statement is confusing. First off, the connection between the coping activity and a future career is weak. But, beyond that, the statement that they “design lives” is…strange. We’re not sure what the profession of this applicant was exactly but, no matter what it is, this probably doesn’t accurately describe it. It’s actually just too much. When you write essays, be careful not to go off the “prose deep end”.
From ‘quest’ to questioning
Due to my father’s frequent transfers, I travelled extensively which instilled a spirit of curiosity and enquiry in me.
As far as introductions to a particular character trait goes, this one is perfectly fine. It is to the point, logical, and sets up the rest of this section well. Could it be rewritten to strengthen it? Of course – we’re not a huge fan of its structure, word choice, and literary vehicles but that’s editing – not a fundamental issue with the content itself.
My explorative journey from a jewelry designer to a strategy consultant has been possible due to my unrelenting passion to learn something new each day.
This section is difficult to truly address without a better understanding of the overarching strategy of this applicant’s application but a few thoughts. Firstly, if this is the first time they have discussed their career background then this isn’t sufficient (keep in mind IMD’s other essay prompts which don’t quite lay out a place for the applicant to do this). It’s confusing and, while interesting, raises more questions than it answers. That said, learning something new each day is a great personality trait and we agree with its inclusion. We just disagree here in terms of execution.
I have always put myself in demanding situations to accelerate my learning process and donned multiple hats as a salesgirl for Oriflame, freelance fashion model, designer, teacher, entrepreneur and strategy consultant.
To a certain extent, this repeats, with a few more words, and steps, what was written previously. It is also more of a claim than a true example. You could argue that the list of professions is an example in and of itself but still – not a true example. Also, when talking to a business school where they ask you what your goals are, what you want an MBA for, etc. – calling attention to a checkered and disparate background probably isn’t the route you want to go.
A FEW PARTING THOUGHTS:
Overall, this essay does one thing correctly. It focuses on just two examples and tries to build them out rather than cramming in a million things. Whenever you’re dealing with short essay prompts such as this one, the imperative is to balance depth with breath. After all, you need a certain amount of raw words to properly communicate an idea and support it.
Now, that said, this applicant also made two critical errors. The first was the inclusion of an extremely personal and raw example that an MBA application simply isn’t designed to handle. The second issue was the digression from “inquisitive and explorative” to a career nomad. What started out as a good example quickly became the exact opposite and showcased traits a business school doesn’t want to see. They want drive – vision.
Lastly, make sure your themes, traits, and examples tie to what the school is looking for. IMD values an international perspective, a desire to make an impact, strong leadership skills, and the ability to work closely and effectively with others. EVERY part of your application needs to speak to these key themes. Don’t fall into the trap with personal “tell us about you essays” to talk more about what it is important to you than what is important to them.
In conclusion, be purposeful in your examples. Know what you want to communicate, and make sure your examples support those points logically. Don’t leave the reader with more questions than answers and definitely don’t make the reader uncomfortable!
Next week we’ll review another “off-the-beaten-path” essay with Duke’s 25 Things so be sure to check it out!
- The folks CriticalSquare
If you think your essay or resume could use a review or two, check out our Essay Editing and Resume Review services. Not sure where to start? Sign up for a free consultation instead!
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Short Story Science Fiction – The Alien
It was a cold day in June. I hurried home after my shopping which had left my spirit high and purse depleted. It was dark, the shadows overlaying each other on the floor as I walked on the sidewalk, before entering my garden pathway. It was chilly and I was very hungry having resisted the snacks and ice creams at the mall eateries. Somehow the mounting hunger made me irritable and I hurried to my house.
Just as I walked up the steps that led to the doorway a sudden dazzle hit my eye. A torrent of light had capsized upon the house and I felt the glow of a thousand suns cascading upon me. The glaring white blinded my eyes. I dropped my shopping bags around me and shielded my eyes from the deluge. I stood still panic stricken.
Looking up I saw a fascinating sight. It was a UFO. It was an exact replica of the ones in comic books and fiction movies, so I couldn’t possibly have mistaken it for anything else. And sure enough my eyes wandered around the craft to see if any aliens emerged.
At the same instant I felt a tug at my saree pallu. I was wonder struck at the sight of an alien, very humanoid in appearance. And of course he was sea green, as they were always portrayed, and he stood there with his strange enormous eyes straining to see me, eye lids fluttering as though he were myopic. His eyes were watery with rainbow shades floating in them very strangely, and I felt magnetized. He wore a glowing silver metal helmet which was actually his head. The inevitable antenna (like the two tentacles found on the head of a snail) glimmered and shone in florescent shades of green and red as though it were traffic lights. He became too interesting a spectacle for me to feel afraid of, as my eyes explored this fascinating intruder.
His head was mango shaped and his mouth widened and contracted on and off in a perpetual grin that stretched wide to right behind his head. I was relieved he wasn’t scaly, like some of them from comic books. I gathered up courage and said, “Hi!”
The alien nodded as though in acknowledgement, but it was not to be. He nodded all the time even when I hadn’t spoken to him. Since he seemed to be of a congenial temperament I grew braver and extended my hospitality by asking him if he needed food. He grinned and nodded, and I doubted that he understood me.
This time I softly prodded him stomach and was surprised to find it sounded very metallic though it didn’t look it. It was almost a drum.
Still he repeated the grin and nod.
By now I was enjoying this strange encounter, considering he wasn’t harmful, and I really wished to communicate with him. I was afraid he would take off abruptly, as it always happened in movies I had seen. I prodded his tummy again and
said, “Food?” I made a chomping sound as if I was munching away. Grin, nod. Grin, nod.
“Drink?” And I made a gulping sound.
He stared bewildered, the rainbow hues swirling wildly in his eyes. I was transfixed at the sight, for it was a truly spectacular sight. I picked up a tetra pack of Amul Lassi from the shopping bags I had dropped open and punctured the silver blocker. I offered this to my alien friend.
Grin, nod. Grin, nod.
And I tried an apple, an orange, a packet of cummin seeds. Then I waggled a sachet of Sambar Podi Shakti Masala, to no avail.
Words like ‘fridge’, lunch, chappathis, rice made absolutely no sense to him.
When I next tapped his tummy I heard some static sounds as though he were a goofed up radio. Few beeps followed and the antenna on his metal head flashed tiny lightning lights.
I just stood there asking myself if i was having a psychic experience. Have I turned paranormal? I hoped my sighting of this humanoid was not some sort of change in electromagnetic energy in its immediate vicinity.
The brightly lit UFO had lodged itself upon the field beyond and like all the UFOs I’d seen in movies, dimmed its lights and stood like an enormous dark shadow in the background. A few serial lights flashed on and off to remind us of its presence.
I gestured for my friend to come into the house. I took few steps forward and began climbing the few stairs that led to my veranda. I was amazed and happy to find the alien hadn’t slackened his hold on my saree pallu. He slid in with me and floated up the stairs. His every move fascinated me. I just had had to slow down and watch his every move. I couldn’t understand how he mobilized without legs or feet.
However, he stopped moving once we were in the veranda. He turned himself to face his space craft and emanated a few of his beeps and static sounds. I heard a soft crackle from the craft in answer.
The alien turned around a full circle, grinning and nodding non- stop, and looked me straight in the eye. Two pinpoints of light like keen daggers pierced mine. He then did to me what I had done. He prodded my stomach with his spindly fingers a few times and let off more static sounds. He then turned towards the space craft, floated down the three stairs as though he were a spirit, and swish, disappeared into the spacecraft. More lights. More beeps. More crackling sounds. A big woosh. And I was left there on my house front, alone with my thoughts and thoroughly perplexed. A terrible loneliness filled my heart and I hated to see my alien go!
I wandered into my house like a zombie, and looked out the window to see a tiny spot twirl and vanish like it always did in my books. I fell in a faint.
I slept a fitful sleep and woke up in a hospital bed. My nurse gave me my breakfast, but hunger evaded me. I had lost all appetite. I asked about my alien and they gave me a pill to make me doze off. When I woke up I still felt no hunger and refused all food. Everyone was worried sick that I hadn’t eaten for three days. Then four. Then five.
“Six” said someone.
“Seven!” said someone else.
“Eight!” said my husband’s loud voice. And then I awoke.
Yes it was eight in the morning, and here I was pining away for my alien in my dream!
By Jayashree Jayapaul
Read more English Short Story by j.jayashree in category Science Fiction with tag alien | Cold | hunger | metal | UFO