What do you mean, “Juvenile”?

Tom Mackey, TMMBA Student

One of the things that must be included in your admissions packet is a personal statement explaining why you want to enter the TMMBA program. There are a number of questions that you need to respond to, and a page limit — I won’t get more specific than that. Now I fancy myself as being pretty good with prose, so I figured that this would be a no-brainer.

By the time I was done, I would prove my preceding opinion wrong — twice over…

I wrote the essay and showed it to Marilyn. She wanted to see the requirements. I showed them to her. She tossed my paper back to me and said, “It’s juvenile — if you want to be rejected, go ahead and turn it in like that.” Ouch. Oh, my ego. Juvenile? But look how clever I was in weaving the information they wanted throughout my paper! I had written what I thought was a nice “hook” that would be a compelling reason to read the paper. “What about the hook?” I asked. “The hook is fine. But the rest is garbage. Do you really think that someone reading a hundred papers for the information they want is going to be willing to look all over your paper for what they need? If I were reading the papers, I’d want to see each response in a concise paragraph, in the order in which they were presented. Yours I would reject after one glance!”

Yikes. The application packet is due the next day. The next day is the absolute last day I can submit it (more on that later….) and now I have to re-write the whole dang paper. Hours later, I ran it by Marilyn, again.

“Well, it’s better, but your points aren’t being made very clearly. If you want to get accepted, you’ll have to re-write it.”

I argued, I pleaded my case, and as you can imagine, this ended up with me shouting what it was I was trying to say.

“I need to go to my meeting now. Just write it like you were yelling at me. I’ve had it!”

Double Ouch!! — Well, at least she didn’t toss my sorry butt out of the house before she stomped off to her appointment. She had every right!

So I did another edit, then tightened it up even more, so it said what I wanted to say, directly, and stuffed it in the packet. The hook? That was the only part I didn’t have to re-write.

Key take-aways:

1: Show your personal statement to someone you trust to be objective, critical, and a stickler for details.
2: If you think you are done, edit it again. Be ruthless with the pruning, like you should be with roses.
3: Even with a tersely written paper, there is room to show your creativity.

Did it work? When I had my interview I was told that they enjoyed my paper and had passed it around the office. ’nuff said.