Most of the MBA admissions directors and coaches you talk to will tell you that the application essay is one of the most important elements considered for admission to top MBA programmes. What is the high value of the written word in telling your story, highlighting your motivation, and illustrating your professional worth?
In broad terms, the MBA application essay is your best opportunity to summarise and explain your choice of B-school and studies in your own words. The way your goals and expectations fit the focus of an MBA programme is of primary importance for preselection for admission and an invitation for an interview.
In some cases, to apply for an MBA programme you may even need to submit more than one essay. Although this shows just how important the essay can be for MBA admission, do not waste time stressing over your application but, instead, engage in effective preparation. As soon as you have your list of MBA programmes to apply to, make sure you are aware of the specific requirements listed by each of them because there may be considerable differences. Admissions directors can see right through an application essay that has not been tailored for their programme so sending the same piece of text to different universities and hoping one of them takes the bait is out of the question.
Check out: Common Mistakes to Avoid in Your MBA Application
In an attempt to aid you in the essay writing process even further, we got feedback directly from the admissions directors of top international MBA programmes. Their advice will give you a better idea of how you can make the most of the essay and use it as an opportunity to stand out in the application process.
Demonstrate your motivation
Rebekah Melville from Yale School of Management (US) points out one of the most commonly cited pieces of advice for MBA applicants – justify why you are the right person for this class and explain how your aspirations will fit in with the school’s values:
What we are looking for is to get a little bit deeper in the sense of who you are, what you value the most and the actions you’ve taken towards your beliefs. No one gets in on the basis of a fantastic essay, but it is another valuable piece of your application.
Although this is easier said than done, getting to know your studies of choice in detail will help you present a more convincing argument. Lauranne Bardin, who is in charge of recruitment for the MBA programme at HEC Paris in France, the UK, and Asia, also stresses the importance of an applicant’s motivation:
[Applicants] really need to make us feel that this choice is the best one for them and for their career. They need to point to aspects of the programme that they like and they need to show us that they know the programme and have done their research. We also want our candidates to have clear career goals. Of course these goals can change during the programme, but it’s important to see that they already have a career plan which is in line with their experience.
Although making a strong case for yourself is essential, do not try to polish your essay to the extent that it loses your personal touch. Yulia Koroleva, Associate Director of Admissions at ESADE Business School (Spain), shares that it is best for applicants to present a genuine application that reflects their individual profile:
The most important thing for us is to make sure that what we see through the application is the real candidate. I would say the motivation and profile are the most important. I would advise our candidates not to try to give the answer that they think we expect, but to be honest when answering essay questions and demonstrate who they really are.
Check out: Be Yourself During the MBA Video Essay
Highlight your professional experience
MBA programmes are designed for ambitious professionals who wish to elevate their career to a higher level. Naturally, this drive for growth has to be reflected in your application. Claire McKeown, full-time MBA Recruitment Manager at Warwick Business School (UK), further explains:
We’re looking mainly at people’s work experience, the progression that they’ve made and evidence of their managerial and leadership skills. In terms of essays, we do ask specific questions to try to bring out evidence of those qualities. So we’re paying quite close attention to how well a candidate has given us examples of those things. And then if a candidate is shortlisted for an interview, we will explore that further at that stage.
Show how you stand out
For the strongest possible application essay, relevant professional experience and good motivation may not be convincing enough on their own. Admissions directors often say that they are looking for applicants who truly stand out with their unique profile, experiences, and goals. Iliana Bobova, Head of Admissions Consulting at Advent Group explains:
Profiling your uniqueness is very important because MBA admissions teams aim to build a diverse MBA class in terms of academic and professional background, culture, and experiences. Learning from peers is a considerable and highly valued part of the MBA experience.
So, find a way to bring out your uniqueness in your application, and especially, in the essay. Anna Pauwels from Emlyon Business School (France) clarifies further:
We pay most attention to diversity. In our programme we have a very diverse cohort, both in the Full-time and the Executive MBA. Speaking for the Full-time MBA, we have between 30 and 40 students and, for us, diversity is number one – not only cultural, but also professional diversity. So, if you do something out of the ordinary – for example, if you are a DJ in your spare time or if you have a little business on the side – talk about that. In our cohort, we want everyone to be different and we want everyone to bring something else to the class. This is the best piece of advice I can give.
Whether you have already found your dream MBA programme or you are planning to apply to several business schools, you need to come up with a clear plan for your application essay. Brainstorm different approaches, think of your strongest achievements, and do not forget to ask colleagues or peers to check the final work. If you prepare well and use the right strategy, your essay will successfully lead you to the next steps in the MBA admissions process.
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Sample MBA Admissions Essays - Accepted by Stern and NYU (Courtesy of EssayEdge)
1. Think about the decisions you have made in your life. Describe the following:
PAST: What choices have you made that led you to your current position?
PRESENT: Why is a Stern MBA necessary at this point in your life?
FUTURE: What is your desired position upon graduation from the Stern School?
I like options, I like security, and I like power. With these wants, I knew at a very early age that I would enter business and thus I attended a college that specializes in the subject. In my first position out of school, I was hired by Dunhill Equities as a cold-caller. After several weeks of being hung up on by angry prospects, I decided that this career path would not lead me to success. I then moved within the firm to a position as sales assistant. While this was by no means my dream job, I learned a tremendous amount about business, and I gained useful exposure to the world of finance. Unfortunately, the company hit a period of instability, and after ten months I transferred with my boss to Coleman & Company. Thirteen months later, that company also began to fail, and I began to search for another path to advancement. With two strikes against me, I hit a home run and was hired by Sanford Bernstein into a challenging job with limitless opportunity for growth.
After almost three years at Bernstein, I am once again seeking career advancement. My education and work experience have provided me with an excellent introduction to business, and they have sparked my interest in finance. Taking into consideration my foundation and my interests, graduate business school is the next logical step. At this point in my life, I consider a Stern MBA to be necessary since I need to gain a broader understanding of finance and to sharpen my analytical skills in order to be successful in corporate finance. Stern’s MBA program will allow me to concentrate in finance, strengthen my global business perspective, and provide me with the opportunity to study with and learn from people with varied backgrounds. The school’s location in the financial capital of the world and in one of the most diverse cities in the world also suits me perfectly.
Aside from advancing my career, I would also like to develop personally. In college I did not join many clubs or organizations, and I did not participate in sports. Instead, I spent all my time studying, working, or dealing with family issues. Having been away from home and living in New York City for four years, I feel the need to make a name for myself and to develop a meaningful social life. I want to take advantage of the many benefits that extracurricular activities offer, and I want to be involved in the Stern community.
Upon graduation from the Stern School, I will seek a position as an associate within the corporate finance department of a large, Wall Street, investment-banking firm. In three to five years, once I have become adept in financial analyses, drafting prospectuses, preparing business presentations and other financial advisory work, I will move into a senior associate position. Here I will develop my abilities to anticipate client needs and to engineer solutions that address these needs. In approximately 10 years, I will have the experience necessary to take on upper-level management responsibilities.
Describe yourself to your MBA classmates. (You may use any method to convey your message: words, illustrations, etc.)
I grew up in a small fishing village in Maine, surrounded by family. Expectations and aspirations are limited in such an environment. I could have made a living exploiting the sea, but chose to do similar work as a corporate executive. Although I have no siblings, my hometown contains over fifty family members, and our agenda of family activities is always packed. Most of my family is employed in the commercial fishing industry, which instilled in me at a very young age, the concept of work. At age eleven, I started babysitting and mowing lawns, and at the age of fifteen I applied for my lobster license. The first summer with my license, I took a job as a sternperson with a fellow female. We were the only two females out there, which was definitely an experience. When the lobstering season ended that year, I took a job at a grocery store bagging groceries. I saved enough money to build a boat and to buy fifty lobster traps; I was on my way. The following summer I continued to work as a sternperson, and I also fished my own traps. I continued lobstering throughout the rest of high school and college, and it helped me finance my college education.
In addition to being ambitious and motivated enough to put my heart into even mundane, low-level tasks, I am also extremely organized. This is one characteristic that has always received praise. I pay particular attention to detail, which I believe has contributed to my success thus far. I take pride in my work, and I look at it as a representation of myself. In my position at Sanford Bernstein as a Consultant Liaison, I market my firm to the financial consulting community. Maintaining the integrity of the firm is vital and errors are disastrous. When training new group members, I stress this point most thoroughly.
I work in a group that currently has six members. The group serves as a central source of information for the firm, and its success relies on an extraordinary amount of cooperation from each of us. As a senior member, I am able to contribute to the group in several ways including: training group members, controlling the quality of the group’s output, managing and accurately completing multiple requests with short turnaround times, gathering and conveying information from senior investment professionals, collecting and calculating data, maintaining databases, overseeing projects aimed at making long-term improvements to the group’s processes, and strengthening my own foundation of knowledge to be used as a resource. Recently, as the result of a manager leaving the firm, I have also taken on some of the managerial responsibilities for the group including prioritizing and delegating assignments.
Though I am an excellent team player, in business school I would like to sharpen my managerial skills. I have found that I need to overcompensate for my “soft” appearance in order to get my point across. I hope to improve my negotiating skills and to gain more experience in getting group members to carry their own weight. At the same time, I do not want to become a tyrant. To be effective, it is important for a manager to maintain the proper balance of power and compassion. Only in this way, will I be able to lead a team of people to realizing the goals of a firm.
(Optional) Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admission Committee. If you are unable to submit a recommendation from a current employer, please give your reason here.
To satisfy my desire for success, I must continue my education. Of the six business schools to which I am applying, the Stern School is my first choice. I am very excited about entering an MBA program that will allow me to focus on my interest in finance as well as provide me with the career possibilities and exposure to resources, such as networks and learning tools, which I do not currently have. At Stern, I know that my investment of time, energy, and money will be well rewarded. At this point in my life, I believe I have great potential to gain much from a business degree since I have been exposed to the business environment for the past eight and a half years. I now posses a strong foundation to build upon, and I am ready to assume the rigors and challenges of the Stern School’s MBA program.
In addition to its academic program, the Stern community is itself very appealing. The three undergraduate schools that I applied to were Babson, Bentley and Bryant. Babson College became my first choice as soon as I visited its quaint campus and fell in love with the friendly atmosphere and cultural diversity. From someone coming from a small fishing village in Maine, it was refreshing to be surrounded by family. Living in New York City has broadened my exposure to include a fast-paced, career-minded atmosphere. The combination of these characteristics at the Stern School will provide me with an excellent learning environment, and I hope to attend Stern for many of the same reasons I selected Babson.
For access to 100 free sample successful admissions essays, visit EssayEdge .