Most MBA application essay questions focus around three central themes: “Where are you coming from?”; “Why this MBA now?”; and “Where are you going?” These are the kinds of questions that logical adults ask themselves when making a major life decision, so odds are you have already begun reflecting on them.
If you are early in the application process and still feel uncertain about whether to apply, reflecting on the essay questions or taking a crack at them early may actually help with your decision-making process. If you feel completely resolved and are eager to move ahead with your application, you may still need to do some reflection to clearly convey your reasons to the admissions committee. Reading sample MBA essays will help you begin thinking about your own essays and will give you an idea of what to shoot for.
Writing your MBA application essays well can make your application stand out from the others in a way that is much more distinctive than a high GMAT score or even an impressive resume.
Where are you coming from?
The first of the major themes, “Where are you coming from?”, seems straightforward. You answer this question every time you write a resume, and this MBA application essay gives you an opportunity to include some (but not all) of the same information. A great essay can sell you more effectively than a resume by presenting a few key pieces of information in the format of a compelling and unique story. In addition to telling readers about your most impressive professional accomplishments, this can also be a great way to inform them of the personal motives that drive your career. If you write professionally and explain the connection clearly, a personal touch like this can make your application memorable to a committee member who reads many essays each day.
Why this MBA now?
The second major theme, “Why this MBA now?”, actually has three key aspects that you need to pay attention to. Your answer should demonstrate: 1. how this particular MBA will be instrumental to advancement in your career trajectory; 2. that you have researched the institution to which you are applying and found it to be a good match; and 3. how your experience has equipped you for graduate level business studies. Make sure to research the structure, curriculum and faculty of each institution you apply to, and think critically about how each of these aspects might serve your particular goals in a different way. Your aim is to explain to the admissions committee how your career has brought you to their particular institution.
Where are you going?
Finally, you need to explain to the admissions committee what you plan to do with your MBA – that means discussing how you will make use of and build on this education for the rest of your life. You should have one short-term goal and one long-term goal that will make clear use of your education and that you can define in concrete, realistic terms. You should also explain the relationship between your post-MBA goals and your professional and academic experience thus far, especially if you are considering a post-MBA career change. This question may seem like the most personal and intangible essay question, as it deals with things to come rather than the past or present, but it still needs to be as honest and definite as possible. This is your opportunity to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you understand what their institution offers and that you have thought clearly about how an MBA could propel you in your career.
Most MBA application essays will focus on one or more of these themes, although each question may also have a distinct angle and / or word limit. Break down the questions on the application in terms of what themes they cover, pick a few key points to make and structure the essay around this critical information. If you are applying to several schools, you will want to begin by composing general answers to those questions which overlap in subject and length. Then, you can tailor these general essays to the specific questions, word limits and characteristics of each school. Do not write formulaic essays and send them to multiple schools without attuning them carefully to each institution, program and application. If you start to develop writer’s block at any point in the process, reading a few sample MBA essays should help you to get moving again.
And remember: An MBA application essay that shows evidence of sincere reflection, meaningful experience and a good fit with a particular institution will stand out in the committee’s minds when other essays have been forgotten.