Our founder, Kaneisha, recently sat down with an Application Accelerator® client applying to the Harvard Kennedy School’s MPA Joint Degree program. This client had worked with us for the previous admissions cycle and was rejected from HKS despite her strong application. However, with our help, she was admitted to a top MBA program with a scholarship. So when it came time to reapply, she approached us for help making her second application to HKS as strong as possible.
The client sat down with us for an hour-long feedback session, seeking critical input on her essays. In one hour, Kaneisha reviewed all nine of her HKS application essays. In this post, we’ll break down highlights from the feedback Kaneisha shared for several of her essays.
Using specific examples of new skills in the reapplication response essay:
As this client is applying to HKS for a second time, nailing her reapplication essay was crucial. Kaneisha’s primary advice for this essay was to focus heavily on how the client has most changed since she last applied. In the client’s case, this would mean focusing the essay on her recent experience as a student in a rigorous MBA program.
Namely, Kaneisha advised being as specific as possible about how that MBA experience has helped the client grow. Kaneisha said, “Add more about your time at the MBA program, [share] what have you been involved in outside of the program that has made you a better candidate.”
Additionally, to really drive home the point, Kaneisha edited the essay to be as explicit as possible about the benefits of the MBA program. For example, the client used the term business skills in her essay draft, and Kaneisha commented, “You need to actually say what business skills. For example, negotiations, risk assessment…human capital management, etc.”
Using active language in the expectations essay:
Kaneisha also edited the client’s expectations essay, which prompts applicants to share more about a time when they did not meet expectations. In this essay, Kaneisha edited for clarity and active voice. For example, Kaneisha advised the client to use active language such as: “At HKS I will…” instead of “At HKS I would…”
Kaneisha also shared some insight into how the client could make the essay more impactful with the remaining word count. For example, Kaneisha advised the client to describe how she felt about the situation covered in the piece, and what thoughts were in her mind at the time.
Adding specificity and clearly identifying career goals in the concurrent degree essay:
The concurrent degree essay prompts the applicant to discuss how the joint degree program will benefit their career. For this essay, Kaneisha shared feedback about how the client could more specifically name the value of the HKS MPA program and clearly identify her career goals.
Kaneisha advised, “I think you need to put something in here about learning how policy is made. You talk about leadership skills and subject expertise. But, there is also expertise in the way the government functions, like how policies are made, lobbying, negotiating, regulations, electoral politics, etc.” After implementing this feedback, the client’s essay offered a more holistic response to the question at hand.
Kaneisha also shared advice about how the client presented her career goals. In the essay draft, the client shared long-term plans and mid-term goals but did not explicitly label them as such. Not differentiating between the two types of goals could be confusing for the reader, so Kaneisha advised the client to name which goals are long-term vs. mid-term.
Demonstrating interest in the two-year MPA essay:
For the two-year MPA essay, Kaneisha shared some tips about how the client could make a case for her interest in HKS specifically. To do so, Kaneisha recommended discussing classes, culture, alumni and clubs.
Fortunately, the client had already done her homework. In her draft, the client referenced her excitement about connecting with an HKS alum whose work was relevant to her career goals. Kaneisha was thrilled to note that the HKS alum mentioned happened to be a former The Art of Applying® client!
The essay portion of the HKS MPA Joint Degree application is no small feat. While every applicant’s stories and essays are unique, using the feedback we shared with this client could help many applicants. For example, like our client, many applicants could benefit from being more specific about their career goals in their essays.
Kaneisha was able to give this Application Accelerator® client feedback on all her essays in 60 minutes. If you are applying to HKS or other graduate programs, getting inspiration from previous essays can always be helpful. Application Accelerator® clients get access to 100+ sample materials, including essays, resumes, and recommendation letters.
Application Intervention® calls can be up to 90 minutes long and cover essays, resumes, and more. Application Intervention® clients may also receive access to relevant materials to demonstrate how a strong application flows.
Whatever stage you are at in the application process, we can help you put your best foot forward. Learn more about the Application Intervention® here.