Another Piece of the Puzzle

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MBA Application Essay Topics

Your personal essay is worth stressing about.  With so much of your MBA application already determined by college transcripts, work history, and GMAT scores, the essay gives you an opportunity to speak your mind. What you say and how you say it will illuminate who you are, what you’ve done, and where you are going in a way that the facts and data can’t. How you interpret the question and translate your experience onto paper is just as important what it is you have to say. Oftentimes MBA applicants get so caught up in what it is they have to say that they lose sight of the question and how it pertains to their application as a whole.

Know the Picture Before You Begin the Puzzle

Business school applications contain various types of essay questions. Some encourage you to reflect on a specific experience, others ask you to reveal a goal or solution to a hypothetical situation. When starting an application read over all the essay questions before tackling any. This is because the admissions committee will consider the sum of their parts when accessing your candidacy. Thus it is important to view each question as a piece of a larger puzzle, rather than a single entity. Use each essay to give the admissions committee a window into something new or a deeper look into something evident. When brainstorming each essay it is important to consider where you are applying and how your response relates to the mission and ideals of the program. Once you understand what a question is asking and how it pertains to the goals of the school, formulate a response that will function as a unique and compelling component to your application as a whole.

It’s an Application Essay, Not an Autobiography

Many essay questions range from 200-500 words. Don’t expect to tell your whole story in a single response and don’t veer away from the question just to incorporate something impressive. If after reviewing the application essay questions you find that none of them call for mention of that non-profit you started, then ask for a recommendation from someone who will bring it up. Remember the admissions committee will have your resume and college transcripts in front of them. So if you made Dean’s List all four years, congratulations. Please don’t blow it by wasting precious space in a short essay reiterating what is already evident. What you have accomplished is clear. But how you accomplished something is another story—it’s your unique story. Tell it.

Essay Entry Wounds

While an essay is an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself from other candidates, some essay questions like, “how will a specific program help you achieve your goals” warrant similar replies from numerous applicants. When responding to questions like this, how you speak is just as important as what you say. Avoid using the passive voice and keep the essay personal, confident, and honest. On the other hand, less specific questions like, “what is something you wish you had done better,” allow for multiple points of entry. Questions like this present an opportunity for you to say something truly unique. Don’t play it safe. And remember when asked what your answer will only be compelling if you address the why and how.

Sample MBA Application Essay Questions By Category

You – Something Special
Tell us something you’ve done well.
(400 words) – Harvard Business School

Career – General Goals
Imagine yourself at your Kellogg graduation. What career will you be preparing to enter, and how have the MBA and Kellogg helped you get there?
(500 words) – Kellogg

Career – Leadership & Teamwork
Tell us about a time in the last three years when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.
(400 words) – Stanford

Life Experiences – Challenges
What has been your biggest challenge, and what have you learned from it?
(200 words) – Booth

School and MBA – Application Specific
Why do you want to attend the Georgetown McDonough Full-time MBA Program?  Tell us in tweet format.
(140 characters or fewer) - McDonough

Hypothetical Questions – Imagine          
Imagine your work obligations for the afternoon were cancelled and you found yourself “work free” for three hours, what would you do?
(500 words) – Wharton

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