Before delving into some examples of essay prompts required by business schools, it is important to clarify that you need consistency throughout your entire application if you want your essay to work its magic. Professional experience, test results, and your interview performance will all play a role in the final decision of the AdComs.
With this in mind, here are several essay requirements listed by institutions from different corners of the world and their advice for a successful submission.
Rotman School of Management (Canada): “Self-awareness is paramount”
This Canadian business school relies on a combination of written and video essays to assess the suitability of candidates applying for the full-time MBA program. The essay prompt for the 2020-2021 intake asks applicants to upload 1-3 pictures and add a written response that explains how these images illustrate their uniqueness and creativity.
According to the Rotman website, this uniqueness can be manifested through different non-work-related activities such as hobbies, awards, entrepreneurial ventures, or sports, to name just a few. The main idea behind this prompt is to find class participants who will be able to enrich the MBA experience through their diversity and exceptional stories:
Our admitted students stand out by doing interesting things with their personal and professional lives – something we describe as the ‘spike factor’; what are the things that you have done in your life that demonstrate Passion/Grit/Resilience/Innovation/Drive/Ambition and more?
Next to this essay question which should be up to 1,000 words long, Rotman’s admissions director also asks a reflection question. It states: “List 3-5 attributes or characteristics that best describe you.” The school emphasizes that there are no right or wrong answers here. However, they advise applicants to think carefully about their choice of words. The words should reveal the authenticity and self-awareness of the candidate. Ultimately, the listed attributes should be consistent with the rest of the application (face-to-face interviews, video interviews, etc).
Check out: 5 Tips to Improve Your MBA Essay Writing
Alliance Manchester Business School (UK): “Consider both short-term and long-term goals”
There are four points that need to be addressed when writing your admission essay for the Manchester Full-time MBA. Without going over one A4 page, applicants should be clear about their goals and motivation for acquiring the degree at this particular school. Here is what to consider for this MBA essay:
Why do you feel it is the right time in your career to study an MBA and why would you like to gain a place on the Manchester MBA?
What are your immediate goals after you complete the program?
a. How do you believe your previous experience and transferable skills, combined with the Manchester MBA, will help you to achieve your goals?
b. Which industry sector(s) and companies are your preferred target and which country/region would you like to work in?
What is your plan B if you are unable to achieve your preferred goals immediately?
What are your longer-term aspirations?
While the school does not specify in what order applicants should present their answers, the focus on both short-term and long-term goals is clear. Along with this, keep in mind the main eligibility criteria of the Manchester MBA – intellectual ability, professional experience (international exposure and entrepreneurial experience are highly valued), and soft skills such as teamwork, communication, and emotional intelligence. Find a way to demonstrate your understanding of the aforementioned areas if you want to make a strong impression.
London Business School (UK): “Spend a significant amount of time in preparation”
Here is another top UK business school which requires the submission of at least one MBA essay. London Business School lists one main essay prompt which should not exceed 500 words:
What are your post-MBA goals and how will your prior experience and the London Business School program contribute towards these?
MBA applicants who want to go the extra mile and share more details about their profile and motivation can do so in an additional (but optional) essay of the same length.
Is there any other information you believe the Admissions Committee should know about you and your application to London Business School?
While the website of the LBS MBA program does not list more detailed instructions about the essays, they stress one thing: be sure to spend enough time providing your answer.
INSEAD (France): “The best essays always strike a balance”
Finally, prospective MBA applicants might be able to learn a thing or two from the essay advice provided by INSEAD. The French school requires three motivation essays and gives candidates the option to add one non-compulsory essay. The topics are not spelled out but the website clarifies that they should reflect personal stories rather than resemble academic or business texts.
An essential tip from INSEAD that many other business schools also watch for is to be authentic in your MBA essay. For example, try to reflect on your childhood, high school or undergraduate studies and come up with stories that have resonated with you. However, be careful not to stray too far from the essay prompt. Whether personal or professional, the examples should relate to the questions at hand.
Taking enough time to write down the main arguments in the essays is another useful piece of advice from the INSEAD AdCom:
For those of you who are not keen writers, keeping a diary where you capture all the fleeting thoughts you have during the day can prove to be very helpful. Writing in bullet points rather than full sentences at first may also help you to get started.
Regardless of the requirements, remember to adopt a personalized approach in your essay writing. Business schools are looking for the authentic “you” and the MBA essay is your chance to show your unique qualities from the outset.