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Short and Sweet: Tips for Writing “Mini” MBA Essays

Short and Sweet: Tips for Writing “Mini” MBA Essays

The article Short and Sweet: Tips for Writing “Mini” MBA Essays was originally posted on the Accepted Admissions Blog.


What is an admissions committee’s message or intent in limiting an “essay” answer to 100, 200, or 300 characters? Just the facts, please. Actually, just the key facts.

No adornment, no backstory, no extended rationale.

In working with clients on such questions, for example the CBS short answer goals question, I’ve been struck by how hard providing “just the facts” really is – it’s counterintuitive, it’s letting go. It can make the writer feel a little naked. The explanations and motivations and reasons – those comfortable “clothes” are discarded, in a heap on the floor. 

Such questions can also make the applicant feel put on the spot. Justifiably – you are put on the spot. How you handle it gives the adcom insight into you.

So how do you give the admissions readers what they want – while simultaneously serving your goal of creating a compelling application that differentiates and distinguishes you?

Here are 7 unadorned tips to answer that question:

  1. Read the question carefully and weigh each word, to make sure you’re answering the exact question. (Seems obvious? I’ve witnessed many very smart people misread the question or simply disregard the question.)

  2. Short doesn’t mean easy. The opposite is often true. Allocate and devote some up-front thinking time to what you’ll say. The fewer words you have, the greater weight each word carries.

  3. While brainstorming, decide which 1-2 key points you must convey. Don’t even consider anything else.

  4. Also while brainstorming, consider the application overall. These mini-essays must work within a larger whole. For example, if you only have 200 characters to write about your goals, and you’re planning to shift careers, look for other places in the application to indicate that you have relevant skill sets, understand the industry/function, etc.

  5. In drafting your mini-essay, write a little over the limit and then pare down. It’s easier to cut your ideas down than to draw out new words once you’ve completed your thoughts.

  6. Make sure each word is meaningful. Stick to nouns and verbs. Use short, direct sentences, which allow you to “squeeze” the most out of the limited characters.

  7. Avoid repeating the question. If it’s about post-MBA goals, the reader will know what you’re referring to, you don’t have to say, “Post-MBA I plan to…

You know the expression “short and sweet.” Turn brevity to your advantage. A short statement can have great power, propulsion. The key is to do it right.


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