How can you write essays that grab the attention of MBA admissions committees? With this thorough analysis, our friends at mbaMission help you conceptualize your essay ideas and understand how to execute, so that your experiences truly stand out.
For years, Columbia Business School (CBS) has been at the front of the pack of MBA programs that have been gradually shortening their application essays and requiring candidates to be direct and concise in their submissions. It was even the first school to incorporate a micro essay into its application. Last season, CBS gave applicants a bit more wiggle room with the essays, increasing the word count for each by a pretty significant margin (up to 100% in one case), but it has tightened the reins back down for this year’s applicants. Still, with a goal statement, three required essays, and an optional essay, you should have plenty of opportunities to convey a well-rounded impression of yourself for the admissions committee. Read on for our Columbia Business School essay analysis for the program’s 2017–2018 prompts… Read more
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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan).
The MIT Sloan School of Management bucks conventionality this admissions season and has added to the word count for its application essays—moving from a maximum of 1,000 words to 1,250. The school’s first essay question remains the same as last year’s, but its second essay prompt presents an interesting challenge in that the admissions committee asks you to do exactly what it does not want you to do in reality: write your own recommendation letter. At least in this case, the school is allowing you to do so in the light of day. Thankfully, perhaps, Sloan has dropped its befuddling optional essay, which had invited applicants to share any additional information in any format. Candidates will be content to see clearer directives in the program’s essay questions. As always, our analysis follows…
Essay 1: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Discuss how you will contribute toward advancing the mission based on examples from your past work and activities. (500 words or fewer)
We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for University of Michigan (Ross).
The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan has refashioned its essay questions, going “smaller” with its requirements, as have several other schools this application season. Ross’s broadly worded essay prompts give you ample breadth—if not an overabundance of words—in which to tell your story. As always, think carefully about what you want to say and the impression you want to make before you start writing, because more opportunity lurks here than you might realize at first.
Essay 1: What are you most proud of professionally and why? What did you learn from that experience? (400 words)
We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for University of Pennsylvania (Wharton).
The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has decreased its number of application essays to just two this year and is giving candidates a whopping 900 words with which to distinguish themselves. We surmise that the influx of application essays can be overwhelming for the school’s overworked admissions officers, who find them somewhat deadening over time. So, by cutting back the program’s application requirements, they are able to stay sharp and still get what they need from you as an applicant. While this change may be helpful on the school’s end, the limitations make your job much harder. Wharton gives you a mostly boilerplate personal statement and a rather Harvard Business School–esque “discuss what you want” style prompt—seemingly not a lot of latitude with which to make an impression, but the key word here is “seemingly.” The smart applicant will make use of Essay 2 in particular to stand out from the pack. Our analysis follows…
This year we require one essay, with a second being optional. For the second optional essay, we recommend that you to use your best judgment and focus your energy on highlighting new information that we are unable to ascertain from other sections of the application.
We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for Stanford Graduate School of Business.
The Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) became the second top MBA program to release its essay questions this year, and the school follows a trend in application essays—“less is more.” Stanford has dropped its third essay question this season and stuck with two standbys, which we can summarize as “What matters most to you?” and “Why us?” The GSB’s choice to maintain its “Why us?” question is an interesting one, considering how selective the program is (the Princeton Review ranks it number one for Toughest to Get Into). Maybe one reason the school is so strong is that it still focuses on fit and does not take its desirability for granted (?).
Another big change in the Stanford application this year is that the number of recommendations required has dropped from three to two, leaving the candidate to make the vexing choice between a professional recommender or a peer for that second recommendation. Our guess is that most people will choose the far more straightforward professional recommendation option, because candidates who do so can be more confident that they have made the “right” choice of recommenders.
Essay 1: “What matters most to you and why?” (750 words)
We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for Dartmouth College (Tuck).
Following what seems to be an emerging trend this season, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College has decreased the number of required applications essays this year from (an already fairly minimal) three to just two 500-word submissions, one of which is a classic career statement, while the other asks candidates to share and reflect on a significant leadership experience. Having just 1,000 words with which to convey meaningful elements of their profile means that applicants will need to be especially judicious in choosing their messages and particularly efficient in their writing to get the most impact from these two rather circumscribed essays. As always, we recommend a thorough brainstorming session before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) so that your messages are clear, complete and fully on topic.
Please respond fully but concisely to the following essay questions. There are no right or wrong answers. We encourage applicants to limit the length of their responses to 500 words for each essay. Please double-space your responses.
1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA fit for you and your goals and why are you the best fit for Tuck?
We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2013-2014 application season. Here is their analysis for Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper).
To us at mbaMission, one of the most notable things about the essay questions Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business is posing this application season is that the program has changed its approach to length guidelines by shifting from “double-spaced page” requirements to specific word counts. Candidates who have surveyed the school’s past questions may notice that Tepper has reframed several of its queries. The short- and long-term goals prompts are separated both from one another and from the “why Tepper” query, and the previous question about an obstacle or ethical dilemma has been replaced by one with a more internal focus, asking candidates to share an instance that fundamentally influenced who they are today. And rather than requesting that applicants pinpoint something surprising about themselves or that makes them proud, the school wants a more general exploration of what the candidate might contribute to the Tepper community in the long and short term alike. We feel these broader prompts may allow you to provide a more rounded and personal picture of yourself to the admissions committee, so let us examine each one a little more closely…
Short Answer 1 (Maximum 250 words): What is your professional goal immediately following graduation from the Tepper School?
Short Answer 2 (Maximum 250 words): What are your long term career goals?
These two short answer questions cover the basic short- and long-term goals elements of a traditional personal statement. To help applicants write this style of essay for any school, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which we offer to candidates free of charge, via our online store. Please feel free to download your copy today.
Essay 1 (Maximum 500 words): What transferrable skills have you developed that are related to your professional goals outlined in Short Answer 1? Additionally, identify the skills that you will need to develop or enhance. Specifically, how will the Tepper MBA help you develop these skills?
With this question, the school takes a slightly unique approach to the usual “why an MBA” and “why our school” questions that most programs pose in one format or another. In addition to asking candidates to outline which skills they believe they will need to succeed after graduation, Tepper wants applicants to specify which ones they already possess. Essentially, to get from Point A to Point B, you will need to obtain/master certain abilities, and the school is interested in learning how far along this trajectory you have already progressed. This will allow the admissions committee to better evaluate how qualified you are (and may eventually be) for your chosen path and how effective the school may be in helping you move forward. By explaining how and why you see Tepper as the right program to provide the training you need, you will demonstrate how well you understand your current level of preparedness and how familiar you are with what Tepper has to offer. As always, framing this information using a narrative approach will make your essay more interesting to read, and likely more memorable as well.
Note that the school is focused specifically on skills. In similar questions from other programs (i.e. “why our school?”), candidates are typically asked to discuss which of the schools’ resources are expected to be valuable, in which case you could note that a particular club could provide you with a lifelong network or a speaker series could give you access to experts in your chosen field. These are not options for this Tepper essay, however. Clubs and speaker series are still valid resources to discuss, but you will need to pinpoint how these offerings will improve or impart skillsrather than provide external assets like a peer network or access to experts. Identify which capabilities you feel you will absolutely need, as well as ones that may just be beneficial and ease your path, and then research the school thoroughly to uncover which resources align directly with what you seek. For example, a certain class could teach you to prepare intricate financial models that will help you better predict certain outcomes, while the school’s Public Speaking Club would allow to you practice and improve your oral presentation skills, and participating in one of Tepper’s exchange programs could help you improve your foreign language capabilities. If you have targeted Tepper because you feel it is the right program for you, you likely already have an idea of what it offers that appeals to you and fits your goals—this essay is where you get specific about what these aspects of the program are.
We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2013-2014 application season. Here is their analysis for Indian School of Business.
The Indian School of Business (ISB) appears to have somewhat narrowed the focus of its essay questions since last season. It again asks candidates to explain what differentiates them from others, but this year, it specifically requests two examples and characterizes what kinds of qualities it seeks, rather than leaving the query more open-ended. The ISB has also shifted its question about applicants’ post-MBA goals to focus less on the goals themselves and more on why its program is the right one to prepare candidates to achieve their ambitions. Applicants are no longer required to submit a video essay about what they believe “life” to be (we imagine a large number of candidates were relieved to see that prompt dropped), and a request for additional information that was mandatory last year is now optional. Overall, the ISB seems to want to get at the heart of who its applicants are—not just what they know and have accomplished—and to be able to evaluate “fit” with what it has to offer.
Essay 1: Attitude, skills and knowledge differentiate people. Elaborate with two examples on how you would differentiate yourself from other applicants to the PGP. (300 words max)
This straightforward prompt is really rather self-explanatory. The ISB is basically asking what attitude, skill or knowledge (experience) you possess that makes you stand out. If you can readily claim some unquestionably unique qualities—a rare skill, an unusual upbringing, an uncommon perspective—deciding on your content will be easy. From there, just focus on presenting your differentiating factors in a narrative format (avoid direct declarations like “What makes me different is X and Y…”) and providing brief but sufficient context as to how you gained or developed these traits.
If you view yourself as a more “typical” applicant, however, you may have difficulty deciding what to spotlight in this essay. Just remember that, as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” You do not need to reveal that you have experienced something totally unique, but you do need to show that you truly understand and “own” your experiences. For example, if you are a consultant, you are like many other candidates out there—you cannot differentiate yourself by saying, “I am a consultant.” But if you think carefully about each consulting project you were staffed on, you will perhaps recall a unique client interaction, moment with your team, situation with your senior manager, dynamic with a trainee, etc. that reveals your attitude, skill or knowledge in an interesting manner.
Hypothetically, if you, as a consultant, found a way to implement a new training module, this is not earth-shatteringly different, but it gives you the granular experience upon which to build a discussion of initiative, commitment and developing others around you. You may not be the only individual who can lay claim to possessing these traits, but the details of your experience creating and implementing that module will ensure that you are able to differentiate yourself sufficiently.
The school asks for two examples, which means you could offer one from your personal life and one from your professional life to present a balanced view of yourself. However, we would encourage you to honestly evaluate what you believe are the two characteristics that truly distinguish you most, and if they are both personal in scope—or both professional—use them. The ISB wants to know what makes you you and who you will be as a student in its program, so being honest and enthusiastic in your essay will serve you best. Forcing the issue and choosing one quality to highlight from each realm just to be safe, rather than offering what genuinely is the most special about you, would unnecessarily weaken your submission.
Essay 2: How does the ISB PGP tie-in with your career goals? (300 words max)
We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2013-2014 application season. Here is their analysis for Yale School of Management.
As we have seen several top MBA programs do this year, the Yale School of Management (SOM) has reduced its essay requirements for the current round of applicants. During the 2011–2012 application season, the school asked candidates to respond to six questions using 1,600 words; in 2012–2013, this was condensed to four questions and 1,050 words; this season, the SOM poses just two questions, for which it allots only 750 words (300 for Essay 1 and 450 for Essay 2). This reduction should not be taken as an indication that the admissions committee is less interested in what applicants have to say, however. Instead, the school is in the process of incorporating a video component into its application in which candidates will respond orally to typical essay-style questions in a spontaneous manner, without knowing the questions in advance. We therefore encourage you to make the most of your essays, for which you will be able to take your time and carefully plan and craft your responses.
Yale’s first essay question for this season is very similar to the one it posed last year, but the school has doubled the word count and removed the query “When did you realize that this was a step you wanted—or needed—to take?” The focus and tone have also changed, in that the SOM had previously asked candidates what “prompted [their] decision to get an MBA,” which essentially emphasized a past event—in other words, what happened in the past to make you realize your need for this degree. This year, however, the school’s use of the word “motivates” carries with it a sense of positive, forward momentum and progression toward a goal—people are motivated to accomplish or attain things. You should therefore keep your focus forward as well and center your response on what you hope to gain from the MBA experience/education and what you plan to pursue after graduation. Identify the skills, guidance, experience and/or other factors that are key to enabling you to achieve your goals and that business school can provide. Then explain how gaining these will prepare you to succeed in your desired post-MBA position and industry.