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How to bring out the “diversity factor” in MBA essays

B-School essays can be broadly categorized into three types

a) The diversity essay

b) The why MBA-why this school-goals essay

c) The general personality questions – leadership, ethical dilemma, challenges.

I am going to elaborate on the diversity essay here.

The diversity essay is the most crucial one and usually the toughest one to write. The schools do not necessarily expect to see things such as “I was a national level dancer”, in this essay. Two points that should be kept in mind while writing this essay are – what is it that makes you different from your comparable group and secondly, what was your learning from this experience and how is that going to help you/your peers at the B-School.

By “comparable group”, I mean people who are coming from similar backgrounds. So, if you are a doctor, you would be compared with other applicants from the medical background. By “different”, I mean something that you did better than others in your regular responsibilities or something that you did apart from your regular responsibilities. By “learning”, I mean something that will take you closer to your goals or help you contribute to the MBA class, in terms of soft skills, knowledge sharing or domain expertise.

The next thing is – structure of this essay. Most people, when asked to write this essay in 500 words, tend to put down as many as 5 diversity points. Ideally, if not asked for a certain number of points, this essay should be woven around one central theme or, at the maximum, three diversity points. Every diversity point should have the following components

  • Explicit statement of the point you are trying to make
  • Some data from your professional life/ academics/ extra activities to support this point
  • The learning from this experience and the contribution that you are going to make to the peer group with the help of this experience.

The “learning/contribution” is the most important component, which most of the applicants tend to ignore. Research more about the school, the clubs and other activities, class size and experience and think more about your goals, this will help you in writing this component.

Lastly, one common mistake that I have seen across applications – people write things such as “I have a positive attitude”, “I am a quick learner”. These are great adjectives but these never count as diversity points. Who would ever say that he doesn’t have positive attitude. Think deeper about your life and I am sure you’ll get better points for this essay.

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