MBA admissions essays are the part of your application package about which admissions committees are most curious. Although essays have strict topics and volume limits, they are still your best opportunity to be genuine, personal, creative and unique. That’s clear enough. But what do prestigious schools, in particular, want to know about you?
What B-schools expect
Business schools usually give clear and friendly instructions about what they expect to read in your essays. Here is what the Wharton MBA recommends:
The Admissions Committee wants to get to know you on both a professional and personal level. We encourage you to be introspective, candid, and succinct. Most importantly, we suggest you be yourself.
On average, b-schools require two or three essays of about 500 words each. For example, the EDHEC Global MBA has two questions of 300 words each. However, ESMT expects eight essays of between 150 and 800 words. The total number of words in one school’s essays can range between 600 and 2450.
The value of admission essays
The key advantage of the essay is that it allows you to present yourself and persuade the admissions committee that you are the right fit for your selected programme. What you should aim to achieve when writing your essays is to:
- Show that you have clear career goals
- Show that you are aware of how the chosen programme can help you achieve those goals
- Illustrate your unique skills, experience and values that will contribute to the learning environment of the MBA class and the mission of the b-school
- Stay coherent. Essays are just one element of the application package, but all documents, facts, figures and feedback should be linked, supporting and complementing each other to convey what you can bring to the b-school and how you will benefit.
- Stick strictly to the MBA admission essay's requirements in terms of topics and volume.
Types of essay questions
These key points are reflected in the actual essay questions. So, it is best that you look into some examples and get into the shoes of MBA applicants. “Typical” essay questions, no matter how they are actually worded, are:
• Career goals and programme fit
These questions are very straightforward and are the essence of the application. They aim to reveal your motivation for MBA studies and for choosing a particular programme.
Here is an example:
Please explain why you are applying for an MBA at ESMT. What are your career plans upon completion of your MBA? Please provide some insights into your short-term (immediately after your MBA) and long-term objectives. (800 words)
• Your contribution
Each business school evaluates your potential contribution to their programme. Convey in your essay what you are good at, what your values are, what you are passionate about, what is unique about you and how it can benefit your peers, professors and the learning environment.
LBS ask the question in this way:
What specific areas of London Business School life are you most excited about getting involved in and where will you add value? (300 words)
However, such questions do not limit your response to extracurricular activities.
• Leadership aspirations
MBA programmes cultivate business leaders. You often come across essay questions about a notable person or a leader whom you would like to meet or whom you admire.
HEC Paris Full-time MBA application asks:
What figure do you most admire and why? You may choose from any field (arts, literature, politics, business, etc.).
Questions of this type give you the opportunity to elaborate on the difference you would like to make in the world, the leadership style you aspire to, the values you share.
• Failure, achievement, values
Achievement seems easy to talk about, but failure – not so much. However, analysing mistakes and learning from failure is a valuable experience that admissions officers want to hear about.
Describe a time in your life where you faced a significant failure. How did it affect you and what were your greatest lessons? (Maximum 300 words). Describe a situation when your personal values where challenged.
• Present yourself
Business schools often simply require you to give a presentation of yourself. This is certainly not an easy task. It helps to think about what makes you unique in comparison to others of your academic and professional background, gender, nationality, etc.
Duke Fuqua says:
Share with us 25 random things about yourself. Some points may be only a few words, while others may be longer.
Describe yourself in two hundred words or fewer.
In the end, it all boils down to helping admissions committees get to know you better as a person and a professional; inspiring them to support you in whatever difference you would like to make in the world; convincing them that you are an indispensable asset for the next MBA class that they are putting together. The admissions essays are your best opportunity to talk to the MBA admission decision makers.
This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2016-2017 annual Access MBA, EMBA and Masters Guide under the title “What do B-schools Want to Know About You?”. The digital guide file will soon be available for download.