So you’ve gathered all of your transcripts, test scores, and references for your MBA application package, now it’s time to tackle the dreaded essay questions. Fortunately, there are ways to approach each question with confidence, which will result in responses that will impress even the toughest admissions committee.
According to The Princeton Review, “there are a handful of business school essay questions that seem to capture the heart and imagination” of many MBA programs. “It seems that, across the board, admissions committees feel these queries offer the best insight into the minds of their applicants.” The focus of some the most common MBA essay questions will be on your specific career aspirations, interests outside of work and school, your leadership skills and personal achievements, and of course, your reasons for pursuing an MBA. Think long and hard about your responses, while keeping the following tips by The Princeton Review in mind.
Your responses to questions about your career aspirations, and why you want to pursue an MBA, are among the most important indicators of a worthy candidate. When crafting your response, “reference your background, skills, and career aspirations,” says TPR, “demonstrating how this degree is a bridge to the next step in your professional life. Be sure to speak to how this particular program will help you realize your potential.”
“It's okay to present modest goals. Deepening your expertise and broadening your perspective are solid reasons for pursuing this degree. If you aspire to lofty goals, like becoming a CEO or starting your own company, be careful to detail a sensible (read: realistic), pragmatic plan.”
If you have plenty of achievements under your belt, describing them won’t be a problem for you. If you’re a little light in this department, TPR says, “smaller accomplishments with a lot of personal significance are just fine if they demonstrate character, sacrifice, humility, dedication, or perseverance.”
A powerful essay “describes how you reached a personal objective and what that meant to you.” For example, “maybe you didn't lead a sports team to a victory. Maybe the victory was that you made it onto the team.”
When it comes to interests and activities outside of work or school, talk about how you will be a unique addition to the b-school community. “Communicate that people, not just your job, are an important part of your life.”
Leadership skills are a great indicator of a good candidate in the eyes of b-schools, so shift the focus from “me-me-me” to “the "we" and how you made the "we" happen.
So, now that the most common essay questions are out of the way, let’s talk about a few questions that are growing in popularity at b-school admissions offices around the world.
One of the top priorities for today’s business schools is diversity, so you are likely to come across an essay question that may look something like this, “Our business school is a diverse environment. How will your experiences contribute to this?” This is the time to discuss your background or the background of someone close to you. For example, if a relative or relatives are immigrants, “you can discuss the impact” of their “values on your life.”
Or “perhaps you are the first individual in your family to attend college or graduate school. Maybe you are involved in a meaningful or unusual extracurricular activity. Whatever you choose to write, it's vital that you discuss how it contributes to your unique perspective.”
The Princeton Review says that what this essay covers is two concerns for the admissions committee: (1) how you will enrich the student body and (2) your attitude toward others' diverse backgrounds.
We all have someone that we admire, and b-schools want to find out which attributes, strengths, and qualities you “value in others and hope to embrace.” TPR advises candidates to try to look beyond conventional characteristics such as discipline, drive, and vision, and to instead, “tell a story and provide specific examples.”
While choosing someone famous is “fine,” says TPR, “you risk being one of many in the pile.” To avoid this, “consider a current boss, business associate, or friend,” and “know that your choice of person is less important than what you say about him or her.”
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"7 Common MBA Essay Questions and How to Tackle Them." The Princeton Review. TPR Education IL Holdings, LLC., n.d. Web. 30 June 2018.