Essay questions. Everybody has to do them. And, most people find the process less than enjoyable… to say the least. So, why is it that Admissions departments put candidates through the anxiety and stress of trying to articulate one’s entire life’s ambition and experiences into an itty bitty box?
Our goal for each essay question is to see the candidate beyond all the ‘hard’ criteria like GMAT, academic record, resume etc; we recognize that each applicant is not just a piece of paper but a person with a story to tell, so we create questions that give candidates the opportunity to share their ambitions, experiences, and personalities with us.
And as for the itty bitty box: the dreaded word limit. Should you follow it? Absolutely. Do we count words? Not exactly. But, having read thousands of essays, we can pretty much tell by first glance if the word limit was followed. We do realize that the 250 word limit on Ivey’s essays is a challenge and it is meant to be. Why? Well, not only do we want to see that you follow instructions but at Ivey, you’ll learn very quickly that you need to communicate your points clearly and concisely. During the program, this can this mean sorting through volumes of case facts and analysis to deliver a thoughtful and articulate contribution to case discussion to move the group along to decision or consensus. Therefore, it is important for us to consider this ability in the application process as well and the word limit is a great way for us to do just that.
Also, let me assure those who wonder if we even read the answers that you’ve been slaving over for countless hours and restless sleeps that at Ivey, we read EVERY WORD. Additionally, the Ivey Admissions Team spends a lot of time developing new questions each year that will encourage the applicant to get creative, and provide us with the most insight into who he or she truly is. Each answer is entirely dependent on each person’s individual experiences and passions – that’s what makes the applications so interesting to read! We like to see how the questions are interpreted and how applicants choose to infuse their own personality into the answers. This is also the reason that we do not provide any application or essay coaching. No one knows you better than YOU.
Sometimes I’ll get questions from candidates who ask: “What exactly are you looking for in this essay question?” And the truth is – that’s up to you! There truly are NO right or wrong answers. That being said, don’t lose sight of the importance of actually answering the question asked. When you complete your essay draft, we suggest letting a friend or family member read your essay WITHOUT telling them what the question is. Then, ask them to figure out the question you are required to answer. If the answer doesn’t align with the essay theme, then you might need to go back to the drawing board.
I hope this has given you some good background and insight into how we develop our essay questions and why they’re so important. With that – happy writing!