Business School Essay
Are you thinking of applying for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program? Congratulations! This is a great way to prepare for a future in the business world. Your business school essay on your application will go a long way toward guaranteeing that you'll find a slot in the business school of your choice. To help you, we're going to discuss certain essay questions that commonly appear on business school applications and give you tips about how to answer them, and pointers on writing a powerful business school essay.
Why do you want to get an MBA from this school? While this might not be the precise essay question asked on your application, it will almost certainly be the gist. Perhaps you'll be asked to describe some goals you have for your life and how you think an MBA will help you accomplish them. Or you may be asked to describe past accomplishments that make you feel that you're ready for a high-powered business career. Whatever the actual question is, it's important that you not be vague in your response. Don't reply with generalities. This question is designed to elicit a vivid picture of who you are and what you want out of a business education. Don't reply that you want an MBA so that you can make a lot of money. This may well be your primary motivation for seeking this degree, but it's not what the admissions committee wants to hear.
They want to know who you are and where you're headed in life. Talk about goals other than financial success, goals that your income may help you reach but that will be more rewarding than the income itself. Write about these goals clearly and directly, in a way that will be interesting and engaging enough to keep the reader turning pages until the end. (If the reader quits before reaching the end, chances are that your application will end up in the rejection pile.) Convey your enthusiasm about getting a degree. Don't be overly broad. Talk about one or two specific goals that you want to achieve and that have motivated you to pursue an advanced degree. Make it clear that you know something about the school without making it sound like you're deliberately flattering the professors and administrators in order to gain admission. Let them know you're knowledgeable about the faculty and are aware of the program. The two most important things you want to accomplish in this essay are to let the reader know that you've done important things in the past and that you plan to do important things in the future. Be specific and detailed about this, not vague, and your essay will stand out from the thousands of others that the school will review. That will give you the edge you need to compete.
In what way will you contribute to our school? Here's where you let the admissions committee know what you'll be bringing to the party. The actual question may be more complicated than this, but this is what it boils down to. This question is different from the previous one, in that it's less about what you've accomplished or want to accomplish and more about who you are as a person. It's about what makes you the unique human being that you are. What personal qualities do you have that will make you successful in both business school and the business world? What makes you different from everybody else who will be applying for an MBA program? What's important to you? What interests you? What excites you? What will you bring to the school that will make it a better place for you, your teachers, and fellow students? Answering this question will require a fairly intense self-examination and you may not be able to do it alone. Ask other people-your friends, your family, your teachers-how they would describe you. Find out what kind of person they think you are. Are you a team player? A natural leader? A doer? A thinker? Do you follow the crowd or find your own path? Find out what they think your strong points are. Write down what they say and use it as a basis for your essay. Or maybe you already have a strong sense of who you are. If you know what you're passionate about and what you value in life, write about that. Do you fight for social justice? Let the reader know. Are you a deep believer in personal freedom? Say that. Be sincere and make the admissions committee believe that your description of yourself is an honest one. If they think you're being disingenuous, it will count against you. But if the picture you paint of yourself is honest and vivid, it will make your essay stand out.
What are some of your accomplishments? This is a chance to set yourself apart from other applicants, so give it careful thought. Come up with two or three things that you've done that you're proud of, things that reflect well on your ability to tackle a large project and see it through to completion. These should be accomplishments that you're proud of and that you think paint you in a good light, but don't make the mistake of bragging about them. Simply state what you did as clearly and matter-of-factly as you can. But remember that the application is asking for this information, so you don't have to be modest about it either. Have you ever organized a money-raising campaign for a local charity or politician? Write about what happened. If you have work experience, did you help to make your company or department more successful than it was when you went to work there? Let the admissions committee know. Have you won a prize in a competition? Were you ever elected class president? Talk about it here. If you got to where you are in life by overcoming significant adversity, this is the best place to bring it up. Don't come across as though you're asking for sympathy, but if you overcame some handicap that would have daunted the average person, explain how you did it. Let your personality come through in this essay so that what you say sounds real, without a sense that you're inflating your accomplishments. However, it's those accomplishments that the admissions committee will be looking for. They want students who are unafraid to engage with difficult problems and take on jobs that others might shirk. If they think that describes you and you have respectable grades as an undergraduate, your admission is almost assured.
How have you demonstrated leadership in the past? There are ways both large and small in which people demonstrate that they have leadership qualities. This question is designed to show the admissions committee that you have initiative and you are willing to lead where most people would be willing simply to follow. Have you been in charge of a political campaign or run for office in the student government? Have you organized a charity drive or inspired your friends to support a conservation effort? Have you headed up a project at your office? These things prove that you aren't afraid to be a leader. Write about them and go into detail about how and why you did it. If you've never taken a leadership role or question your ability to lead, maybe you should reconsider your decision to go to business school. Getting an MBA means that you intend to take a management position, and if you haven't been willing to take a leadership role in your private life, you may not have the necessary instincts for taking a leadership role in the office. But don't give up without taking a thorough inventory of your life to date. You may discover that you're more of a leader than you realize.
Talk about a time you failed and what you learned from it. They say people learn more from their failures than from their successes. If you're like most people, there will be a time in your past when for some reason you didn't rise to the occasion and get the job done. Pick one of these times and use it as the subject for this essay. Talk about what you learned from the experience and how it's unlikely you'll make the same mistake again. We're not talking about personal or moral failings. If you feel that you have serious character defects, this is not the time to bring them up. And choose a relatively recent failure. Don't write about how you flunked a test in eighth grade or didn't complete your project for the ninth-grade science fair. But feel free to admit that you're human like the rest of us and don't always get things right on your first try. Don't be too rough on yourself; just tell the story as it happened, without judgment. Write in the same matter-of-fact tone that we've recommended for other essays. The point is to show self-awareness-that you can face up to your own shortcomings and learn from them.
Who is your role model? Who has been an important influence on you? One of the best ways to understand what a person is like is to learn about someone he admires. Whom you want to be like tells the admissions committee a lot about who you are. This doesn't have to be a celebrity or some great figure everybody's heard about. Writing about famous people, if it's not done carefully, can sound like namedropping, especially if you've met the person or know them personally. However, if a well-known figure has been an influence on your life you can write about them, as long as it doesn't sound like you're basking in reflected glory. It may be best to write about someone you know from the non-celebrity world-a parent, teacher, or sibling, or perhaps a boss or co-worker. This should be a person you know well, not just somebody you read about in the paper. Alternatively, if you read a book about someone and it changed your life in a profound way, you can write about this, but what you say about that person should come from your heart; otherwise, it won't ring true. If you know the person you're writing about, talk about your relationship with them. Describe what it is about this person that you respect and want to emulate. Mention some things that this person has done that you think he would be particularly proud of. Since this will be a person whom you respect, your goal in writing the essay is to make the reader respect that person too and explain why you feel about that person the way you do.
Describe a difficult decision that you've made. This question could be called the Moral Quandary. To answer it, you'll need to write about a time when you were faced with a difficult situation in which there was no solution that wouldn't hurt someone or violate an ethical/moral principle. This shouldn't be only a situation in which you had to choose the lesser of two evils, but one where you had to look at a problem from all sides and take into account the negative impact that various alternatives would have. What you want to show the admissions committee in this essay is that you understand life isn't perfect and you won't sidestep your responsibility for making a decision that has no good outcome-that you'll do what needs to be done. Talk about the decision that you made and why you made it. This is a difficult essay to write and requires more thought than the others. It will tell the reader a great deal about what kind of person you are, so it's important to give this essay a great deal of thought before you write it. What should come across in this essay is that you're sensitive to the needs of others, and that when you make difficult decisions you do so with a full understanding of the human issues involved.
This is your life. Tell us about it. This is the most deeply personal of all the essays we've discussed here. It may also take many forms, asking you how you've grown as a person since high school or what goals you feel you're working toward. The application may request information about your family life as a child or some experience that made you into the person you are. Or maybe you'll be asked to look back from the future and describe the career and accomplishments that you think you're going to have. What will your proudest achievements be? What have you learned from your long and successful life? All of these questions have a single purpose, to elicit information about who you really are. The admissions committee wants to know what your values are and where you're headed in life, how you view yourself and what you think is important. For the question about how you've grown since high school, discuss one or two major changes that you've experienced in yourself and say what you think caused them. Explain how your life is different now than it was then. On questions about your family, take an honest look at your life and describe it as you see it. If your childhood experiences were bad ones-if your parents were divorced or you were very poor-discuss how that experience made you stronger, more independent, and better able to withstand life's blows and discouragements. You'll want to reveal enough about yourself on the business school essay to let the reader feel like he knows you, but don't go too far. You don't want to reveal embarrassing details of your personal life, and you should never try to win the sympathy of the reader by describing the hardships you've been through. Don't come across as an egotist-show that you can be honest about both your good qualities and your flaws. Most of all, try to come across as someone who has given this question a great deal of thought and answered it honestly.
Last Updated: 10/01/2013