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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Changing the Essay Question
They say if you don't like what is being said, change the conversation. It works in advertising and politics, so why not in academia? It seems admissions committees agree and are doing just that by changing the question. The University of Iowa's Trippie School of Business recently caught headlines by offering a full scholarship to the business school candidate with the catchiest Twitter-length 'personal statement'. This week, Columbia Business School announced a 200-character cap on responses to the broad question "What is your post-MBA professional goal?" (By the way, 200 characters is roughly 35 words, which is about twice the length of this sentence).

It isn't just the length of responses that is changing, but also the scope of the question. Harvard Business School candidates are now being asked to "Answer a question you wished we'd asked". It's not ground-breaking stuff, but slightly less dry than "describe a setback and how you handled it".

It makes sense to me to start spicing up the questions. As an editor, one of the single most common pitfalls I see students make in their admissions essays is trying to tailor the essay to be what they think the admissions committee wants to read. This means they're churning out cookie-cutter resumes-in-prose that are neither catchy nor unique. Admissions committees are already busy. They don't need to read the same essay from a thousand different candidates. The admissions committees are now speaking. And though no candidate will ever really know exactly what they are looking for, it's clear the universities and their admissions gatekeepers are ready for a change.


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