1. Before writing an essay, prepare your résumé, and make a note of all your achievements—even the minor things you did that made you happy and proud of yourself.
2. Decide upon your career objective, and relate how it evolved from your education so far and your experiences (work or otherwise).
3. Fine-tune your career objectives—list your short-term, medium-term and long-term plans. Be ambitious—business schools want their alumni to do well. Think of the various positions and responsibilities that you may handle in the course of your career. Feel free to plan your achievements too.
4. Choose the business schools that you wish to apply to. Consider your academic record, your extra-curricular activities, your Gmat score and your work experience. Aim high, but apply to as many schools as feasible.
5. Explore websites of each of these schools. Understand their programmes, their emphases and faculty, etc.
6. Plan how you will answer each essay question, looking at your resume and achievements. Make sure you cover diverse aspects of your life answering the questions. Do not forget your extracurricular activities, hobbies and community work, if any. Take your time understanding the question, and carefully select what you will include in each answer.
7. Write first drafts disregarding the word limits. Frame your answers logically. There must be order and flow in their structure. Give reasons, motivations and influences, wherever applicable.
8. Provide clear career plans. Talk about what you expect to achieve at each stage of your career, how you plan to do it, and, if applicable, how the business school you chose is pertinent in your scheme of things.
9. Show how your background and experiences will enrich the MBA programme and educational experiences of your fellow students. Quid pro quo works.
10. Delete adjectives, add facts and figures. Demonstrate your hard work, analytical skills, values, depth, innovation, intelligence, incisiveness and wisdom, etc. Give instances and examples for them to derive these things from your essays. You don’t have to say “I am very smart and intelligent”, but do leave enough hints for them to find out.
11. Recounting experiences is not enough—show learning too. You may have done something good or bad—what did you learn from it? Analyse your action, its causes and its effects dispassionately. In hindsight, what should you have done differently?
12. Bring out relevance of each idea and relate things together. For example, you could relate your career plan to a summer training that you did.
13. Do not boast about things you never did—people can tell.
14. Do not criticize others—show respect and understanding.
15. Try to make the essays interesting.
16. Words and language should be appropriate, not fancy. Most importantly, you should be able to convey your story cogently.
17. Each allowed word is a resource to be used judiciously. Make your answers concise. No repeated ideas, no unnecessary prose. Do not use 100 words where 99 will do.
18. Revise, again and again. Even if you have worked hard on a paragraph, delete it if it is not relevant enough. Rearrange sentences and paragraphs to achieve the right structure. It is not enough to give all the right information—it must be organized and structured effectively.
19. Check for grammatical and spelling errors. Remove repeated words and phrases. Avoid colloquial terms and abbreviations unless they are pertinent.
20. Get others, especially more senior and experienced people, to read your essays and ask for comments.
21. Most schools have multiple deadlines. Try to meet early deadlines.
22. If you are wait-listed, send them a letter expressing your keen desire to get admission in their business school. Volunteer additional information that they might find relevant to decide favourably. Tell them about your activities and achievements since your application. Ask them about any additional inputs or recommendations they would like to have.