The MBA Application Essay
The MBA application essay is your best shot at wowing the admissions staff. Most business school applications have four mandatory essay questions, along with a fifth question that allows you to explain any weaknesses in your MBA application. All business school applications will have a question which asks about contribute to the community of that particular school. In addition, there will usually be a question that asks about what's important to you and why even if it's under the guise of what you think is the most important historical event or the one famous person you would want have dinner with. Not all MBA application essay questions, however, are created equal. There are some schools with admissions staff that really appear to enjoy creating unusual questions.
MBA Essay Format
While many students want to know what format to use, business schools don't necessarily want you to follow a set formula. That's why using formulas or following examples of essays that "do it right" won't help. Content matters more than format. In terms of the case study, while big consulting firms will require you to do a highly codified business case study, business school admissions don't have the same strict formatting requirements. It is important, however, to focus on basic storytelling principles since moving stories will breathe life into your essay. The most important thing, however, is having a clear argument about why you belong at business school. That's why it's important to use logical reasoning to strengthen your argument of why you'd be a great fit. Make sure you stay on topic by addressing the same key topics and themes throughout all of the application essays.
18 MBA Essay Tips - (or Most Common Mistakes)
- Proofread! Typos may not necessarily sink your essay to the bottom of the pile, but they are a sign that you aren't detail-oriented or don't care to be. Make sure you use the correct name for the school you want to apply to.
- Follow directions. Stay within the word limit. Double-space if the directions call for it.
- Try to set yourself a part from the other applicants. According to Avi Gordon, author of MBA Admissions Strategy: From Profile Building to Essay Writing, you should draw attention to "anything that will get you noticed or make you stand out as a worthwhile addition to the classroom, on campus and one day in the alumni network."
- Part of standing out is writing unique essays tailored for that particular business school, instead of writing a one-size-fits-all essay you send to several schools.
- Do a thorough self-assessment. Look at your academic record and personal accomplishments and what they say about your values and personal qualities.
- After performing the self-assessment, create a master list of your accomplishments that you can use in your MBA application essay.
- Visit the school and email students to get a better sense of why you would be a good fit.
- Be bold, clear and direct in showing the admissions staff who you are.
- Don't praise the school, since, as Gordon says "they know they're good."
- Avoid repeating items from your resume. The point of the essay is to discuss and add value to the rest of the application.
- Never appologize or sell yourself short. That means not writing about any of your weaknesses unless you are specifically asked to.
- Don't badmouth anyone or any organization. You should also avoid whining about obstacles you've face and blaming others for your problems.
- Avoid stating the obvious.
- Pay attention to detail. Many MBA applicants avoid writing custom essay in order to leave more time to study for the GMAT. Admissions can tell when a cookie cutter essay is used and it may conclude that you don't pay enough attention to detail.
- Make sure you address the question asked.
- Know when to use the optional essay. Use it only when you have something specific to address, then end the essay once you've addressed it. There's no requirement to write a full-length essay.
- Make sure you research the program you're applying for before writing your essay.
- When discussing how you will contribute to a particular business school program, list a variety of contributions you'll make instead of focusing on just one. Admissions wants to see a diverse list of what you'll bring to their program.