Writing An Essay For Mba Application

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Business School / MBA Sample Essays
I have been hoping and planning to earn an MBA for the past six years since graduating from college and am excited to now be on the cusp of making that dream a reality. I’ve come a long way from the painfully shy college freshman who initially could hardly even stomach the thought of being a resident advisor because it would involve so much interaction with students I didn’t yet know. I conquered those first fears and went on to become the Resident Hall Council President and Freshman Orientation Leader...
In my experience one of the best places to learn true leadership skills is on the playing field. There are few situations in this world as intense, fraught with danger, and adrenalin inducing as participating in full-contact competitive sports. I have played soccer in a league for over __ years, and while this pastime is certainly not the focus of my life, the camaraderie and interpersonal skills I have learned from it will last me a lifetime...
I consider myself extremely fortunate to be here in the United States earning my education because I know how easy it would have been for this never to take place. Moving here all by myself from Shanghai to attend college was the most difficult thing I have ever done. I had never been away from my family before, I hadn’t even traveled outside of China prior to this trip, and I knew I was in for a big change...
Question: In 250 words or less, discuss your leadership or managerial style as it plays out in an organizational or group setting.

I have had the good fortune to work on several teams consisting of disparate people in a corporate setting. While many individuals shy away from trying to bring un-like minded people together, I see it as a challenge in which, if handled carefully, everyone can bring something unique to the group that will ultimately help us move the selected project forward in a more complete manner than if we all had similar ideas and styles...
Question: In 250 words or less, please describe your career goals and your educational objectives in participating in _____ University’s program.

I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is the home of my heart even though I relish traveling to other countries and experiencing and learning from other cultures. I am in the United States now in order to further my education, improve my English, and make sure that I have the skills to work effectively with business leaders from everywhere in the world...
I come from a land of unparalleled physical beauty but sadly one that is also still struggling to overcome a strict class system that does not reflect the changing values of today’s Argentine people. I am one of the fortunate ones who has had access to an education and the opportunity to go to college in America, but many in my country are not so lucky...
Lying on my back, looking up at the stars while the camp fire crackles beside me, I can feel the utter peace of the ranch this I have loved since I was a boy. I would say that it would be a paradise to spend the rest of my life trekking through the rugged lands that, even though I have traveled them from my earliest memories on, still hold mysteries and new found beauty every time I come here...
Question: Please describe your experience of working in and leading teams, either in your professional or personal life. Given this experience, what role do you think you will play in your study group, and how do you intend to contribute to it?

Though I have had two work experiences outside of college, one as an accountant and the other as an investment analyst, in which I have had the chance to work on teams, contributing valuable experience and information that has been used to make multimillion dollar decisions, I still think my most vital experience of leadership took place in college simply because it was my greatest challenge to step up and take on a leadership role at that time, whereas in my jobs it was expected and I was prepared to do it...
Question: Student involvement is an extremely important part of the MBA experience and this is reflected in the character of students on campus. What type of student club or campus community event do you envisage yourself initiating? How would you set about organizing this, and how would you communicate it to the wider School community?

Having already learned first had the importance of becoming a part of clubs on campus during my undergraduate years I will most certainly be an active member, and possibly founder, of new ones at ________ University. My transition from Japan to America was made much smoother by my active participation in the Japanese Students Association, and if there is not yet a chapter such as this at ____ University, you can count on me to found it...
Question: Newton’s First Law of Motion states that an object in motion tends to stay in motion in the same direction unless acted upon by an external force. Tell us about an external influence (a person, an event, etc.) that affected you and how it caused you to change direction.

There is no event that has so affected my life trajectory as much as my decision to move to the United States to pursue my education. Prior to making this decision I was living what many would consider a perfectly satisfactory life in Cairo, Egypt. I come from a middle-class family, my parents are educated and kind, and I get along well with my two sisters...

Nervous about your MBA admissions essay? You’re not alone! Many applicants wonder how to put their best foot forward in a business school entrance essay.

In this article, I’ll tell you what admissions committees look for in application essays and offer MBA essay tips on how to make yours stand out. We’ll also take a look at the different kinds of business school essays and a few examples of MBA essay prompts.

 

Why Do Business Schools Ask for Essays? What Do They Look For?

Business schools ask for essays for several reasons, all of which help admissions committees determine whether you have the skills and traits to succeed in an MBA program.

First, MBA admissions committees want to see how you write. Communication skills—including concision, clarity, style, and fluency in English—will be essential to your success in business school. One way of discerning your level of writing ability is to require an original writing sample. In an MBA essay, you have to get your point across straightforwardly, elegantly, and concisely; being able to do this is a key element of succeeding in business school and the world of business in general.

Also, MBA admissions committees want to get a sense of who you are on a more personal level. MBA application essays tell admissions officials about you not only through what you say, but in how you say it. Are you self-aware, for example, and can you reflect on past challenges or mistakes in a thoughtful way? Do you demonstrate insight into who you are and your goals? How you answer questions about yourself, your career, and your journey can help MBA admissions officials discern your level of critical thinking and personal insight.

You can have countless accomplishments, but to succeed in business school, you’ll also need to fit in with the campus climate, work well with your peers, and contribute to campus diversity in a meaningful way. The MBA essay is a place for you to talk about the background or experiences you have that are unique to you and that you believe could differentiate you from your colleagues and/or provide a fresh perspective to campus.

Finally, essays are a way for you to showcase the qualities that most MBA programs say they are looking for in applicants, such as leadership skills, community involvement, problem-solving skills, communication skills, clear goals, and a strong sense of ethics. Some of these traits might not be readily apparent from a resume alone, and an MBA essay can be a place for you to elaborate on how you’ve cultivated them in yourself.

 

 

MBA Entrance Essay Sample Prompts

Most MBA entrance essays ask you about one of several things. Many of them are variations on similar questions: the open-ended question, the leadership question, the personal growth question, questions on short- and long-term academic and career goals, and the diversity question. For each one, I’ll give an example of a real MBA essay prompt from 2016 or 2017.

 

#1: Open-Ended

The open-ended MBA application essay question is just that: open. It allows you to tell your own story, giving you quite a bit of freedom but also little to no guidance. For that reason, many applicants find it to be the most challenging MBA essay prompt.

Harvard Business School has only one essay for its MBA application, and it’s the quintessential open-ended MBA essay question. This is the prompt for 2017-2018 applicants.

As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?

Note that, as in other open-ended MBA admission essay prompts, this question asks you to decide what you’ll write about. Successful Harvard applicants and HBS admissions counselors have advised applicants to use the prompt as a chance to demonstrate their past use of an especially desired trait, such as problem-solving skills. For example, many successful applicants use the prompt to describe a scenario in which they faced and overcame a challenge, especially as a leader or alongside a team.

Notably, Harvard also doesn’t list a word limit, so you can decide the appropriate length for your essay. However, most admissions counselors will advise you to keep it concise and straightforward.

 

#2: Leadership

Another common MBA essay prompt asks you to demonstrate your experience and skills as a leader. Leadership qualities are listed by nearly all MBA admissions counselors as fundamental to a career in business and, thus, to a successful business school application.

Let’s look at a sample leadership MBA essay prompt from Kellogg.

Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)

In a response to this kind of prompt, you should be as specific as possible. Name the company you were working for or specifically describe the project you were heading. Who was on your team? What were your objectives? Did you meet them? How could you have done so more effectively?

While you shouldn’t be overly self-deprecating, don’t be afraid to address the challenges you met and how you overcame them (or would overcome them now, with more experience and knowledge). Remember that one important aspect of leadership is accountability, so if there were problems, don’t solely blame your team for them. Instead, reflect on how you successfully worked with your team to solve the problems, and/or on how you could have done so more effectively or efficiently.

 

#3: Personal Growth

The personal growth MBA admission essay prompt will ask you how you’ve changed in the past and how you want to grow in the future. Here’s one example from the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.

Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)

Don’t be afraid to get a bit personal with these kinds of prompts. They’re meant to gauge something about your personality and who you are, rather than only what you’ve done.

Many successful MBA admission essays that respond to these kinds of questions follow a past/present/future format. Ask yourself what traits you’ve gathered over the years that have benefited you personally and professionally, how you’ve improved, and what you’ve learned. What experiences have shaped you? Be as specific as possible.

Then, take stock of yourself now: your career, your education, and where you see yourself in the future. What do you need in order to get there?

Finally, most essay MBA prompts in this vein (like Kellogg’s) will ask you how they can help you move towards that personal or professional goal. Be as specific as you can, focusing on the particular strengths of the prospective MBA program and how they match up with what you want to improve about yourself as a person, colleague, and leader.

 

 

#4: Your Plan

Some MBA application essay prompts will ask you about your career goals and how attendance at a particular business school will help you to achieve them. Let’s look at one from the USC Marshall School of Business.

Essay #1 (Required) – What is your specific, immediate short-term career goal upon completion of your MBA? Please include an intended position, function, and industry in your response. (word limit: 100)

As you can see, questions like these often request brief responses. So get straight to the point, and give details. Name a specific job you’d like to hold, what you’d like to do there, and even particular companies if you can.

Questions like this one will require some research. Research alumni from your prospective business school who’ve ended up in positions comparable to ones you’d like to hold in the future, particular companies and positions that match up with your personal and professional goals, and specific coursework or industry experiences offered by your prospective business school that would help you get there.

 

#5: Diversity, Culture, and Community

Finally, some MBA essay prompts will ask you how your unique background and experiences would contribute to the overall diversity and collegial atmosphere of a school’s campus climate and community. Here’s one example from USC.

Essay #2 (Required) – At Marshall, we take pride in the fact that our students work collaboratively, both inside and outside the classroom, to create a culture, a community, and an environment that truly defines what we call the Trojan Family. Please describe the contributions you expect to make to your classmates during your time at USC. How will they benefit from your presence in the program? (word limit: 500)

You can respond to questions like this, depending on the wording of the original prompt, by discussing your cultural background, identity, and/or personal experiences that have given you particular insight into a given community or that have lent you a unique perspective that could be valuable to your colleagues as you collaborate.

You can also discuss past community service projects or issues you’re passionate about and how you plan to carry those experiences and passions into your work at your prospective MBA program.

 

 

7 MBA Essay Tips

Writing MBA essays takes a particular skill set. Let’s go over the top seven MBA essay tips for making your application essay shine.

 

#1: Write Early and Often

Even though MBA entrance essays are brief, they take a lot of polishing. Writing MBA essays takes time.

Don’t expect to write yours at the last minute or knock out a quality essay in a day. Most students need several drafts to make sure they’re getting their points across as elegantly and clearly as possible.

Start your essay well before the application deadline, when you don’t yet feel any pressure. For several weeks, don’t try to write at all. Instead, before crafting your essay for MBA admission, take notes on your past, present, and future. What have you learned? What unique experiences have you had? What have been the most meaningful projects you’ve undertaken? Ask friends, family, and mentors to tell you what they value most about you or what they see as your greatest personal and professional assets.

Only once you’ve gathered this material should you begin your first draft of your MBA application essay. Start with an outline for each one that includes the story you want to tell and the main points you want to get across.

Once you have a clear outline, you can start drafting. Taking the writing process seriously from start to finish will give you a much better product in the end than trying to write something hastily right before the deadline.

 

#2: Show, Don’t Tell

MBA admissions committees want to be able to tell that you have the qualities that are necessary to succeed in business school, such as leadership skills and integrity.

Your MBA admissions essay can be a great place to showcase those qualities. However, remember to show, not tell. Saying “I have strong leadership skills” doesn’t tell an admissions committee much. Through an anecdote about, say, meeting a difficult deadline or overcoming an obstacle, a reader should be able to tell that you have the qualities of a strong leader without your having to say so explicitly.

 

#3: Research Your Goals

When describing your future goals, be as specific as possible. Business schools know that your goals may change in the future, but stating specific goals now will show that you’ve done your research and have an idea of what you want and how an MBA program can help you get there.

Before writing your essay for MBA admission, research the ins and outs of the industry you want to enter, the position you’d like to have, companies you might like to work for, and coursework and internships or fieldwork that could aid you on your way to those goals.

 

#4: Keep It Concise

Never, ever go over a stated word count limit when you’re writing your essay for MBA admission. It might be tempting, but business schools want to see that you can get your point across concisely and straightforwardly.This rule goes for MBA essay prompts that don’t have specific word counts, too: sometimes, less is more.

One of the biggest mistakes applicants make in writing an essay for MBA admission is to use too much flowery language to come across as more professional. If you do this, it can be distracting and cause the admissions committee to miss the main points you’re making.

Bottom line, trim anything extraneous from your essay—that is, anything that doesn’t actively support the main point(s) you’re trying to get across.

 

 

#5: Show Self-Awareness

It might feel tempting to use the MBA admission essay as a space to list all of your accomplishments (and since your resume is already part of your application, this is unnecessary), but MBA admissions committees would rather see that you have insight into both your strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect, and in your essay for MBA admission, you shouldn’t try to come across as if you’ve never made a mistake or faced a challenge that you’ve had to learn from.

Also, in business school and the business world at large, bouncing back from failures, being flexible, and problem solving are all essential skills. All of them require a thick skin and awareness of what you could do better.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t showcase your achievements, but if you’re asked about personal growth or an obstacle you’ve overcome, be clear about what you could have done more effectively in the past (at a job or in your education, for example) and the steps you’ve taken or will take to sidestep that mistake in the future.

 

#6: Share Your Personal Journey

Many applicants would prefer to focus only on their professional backgrounds and goals in their MBA essays, but you shouldn’t be afraid to get personal in your essay. You don’t need to tell your whole life story, but especially in response to questions that ask about your growth over time, you should showcase your personality and give the admissions committee an idea of your personal background and experiences.

 

#7: Ask for Edits

It might seem obvious, but many applicants don’t do it: proofread your work! When writing MBA essays, revision is key. Turning in an MBA essay with typos and other errors will come off as thoughtless and unprofessional.

You should also get a second (and, perhaps, a third and fourth) pair of eyes on your essay to make sure it’s coming across as you want it to. Going through several rounds of drafts is a necessary part of the writing process to ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward in your MBA entrance essay.

 

 

What’s Next?

Worried about how your GMAT score matches up to other applicants’? Find out more in our list of average GMAT scores by school.

Concerned about your chances of getting into an MBA program? Our guide to business school acceptance rates will help.

Ready to apply to business school? Check out our top eight tips for applying to MBA programs here.

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Author: Laura Dorwart

Laura Dorwart is a Ph.D. student at UC San Diego. She has taught and tutored hundreds of students in standardized testing, literature, and writing. View all posts by Laura Dorwart

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