What do schools look for in the MBA Admission essay?
Last updated on January 29th, 2012
Giving GMAT and acing it, is just the first step on the long road towards the admission to a b-school. There is no guarantee that a great GMAT score (upwards of 750) will get you the final admit to a top b-school.
As the b-school themselves say, GMAT scores play a vital role in the selection of a candidate but are not so vital that a great score guarantees an admit by itself.
B-schools abroad only take students who they think will bring a lot to the class in terms of skill, experience and quality. 85 percent of the learning in an MBA program abroad is from your colleagues rather than from the professors.
Keeping this in mind, the schools want you to present an accurate portrait of yourself, helping them gauge who you are and what you will bring to the table.
It is for this reason; they have what they call, The Admission Essays.
Admission essays are the first round of the admission process, after you have taken the GMAT. Typically leading b-schools will ask you 3-5 questions on an assortment of questions that aim to bring out your real self. Questions may test you on different aspects of your personality and bring out your creativity and originality.
Here we give you some sample questions asked by b-schools in their essays and what they are looking for in an applicant based on their questions.
The quintessential Why MBA question
Almost all the b-schools want to know this. The questions may be direct or may acquire different avatars, but seeking the same truth, “WHY MBA”
Here are the different avatars of the question asked by different b-schools
1. Why MBA from X b-school?
2. What are your career aspirations? What do you need to learn at Stanford to achieve them? (Stanford)
3. (a) What choices have you made that led you to your current position?
(b) Why pursue an MBA at this point in your life?
(c) What is your career goal upon graduation from NYU Stern? What is your long-term career goal? (NYU Stern)
4. Describe your career goals. How will the Ross MBA help you to achieve your goals? (Ross Michigan)
5. Describe your vision for your career and your inspiration for pursuing this career path (Duke Fuqua)
6. What are your professional goals immediately after you receive your MBA? What are your long-term career aspirations? Why are you choosing to pursue an MBA and why now? (Yale)
7. Please give us a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (INSEAD)
8. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you? (Harvard Business School)
This is the most important and the most frequently asked question by almost all b-schools. And it is this question that they want to separate wheat from the chaff.
B-schools, ask this question to understand your past and what made you to take this decision of pursuing an MBA. They want to weed out people who do an MBA, without knowing what to do with it. And believe us they know a serious candidate when they see an answer to this question,
This is the question that will allow you to show your personality and your thought process. This is the place where you display your lucidity and clarity of thought. Here is where you show the pains that you have taken and your hunger for the MBA.
You can show what homework you have done about the course, the b-school and your career in general. Don’t let this question be a tribute to yourself, but a eulogy about the school and how it will help you achieve your short term and long term goals.
Remember some basic facts while answering questions
Do not portray your aspiration to a Steve Jobs by day and Mother Teresa by night. Remember an MBA is not something that will guarantee future success and it depends on individual talents as much as the education.
The career aspirations must be high, but no so high that they sound ludicrous. You have to draw the line between realism and incredible, and stop at realism. (Also remember Steve Jobs never thought he will be what he is today. And in all probability he would not have written an essay as he is not an MBA).
Align your future goals to your current career:
Remember MBA abroad is an enhancement degree and not a degree in itself. So it makes better sense for you to align your future goals to your present career.
So it will make sense for you tell, ‘Right now I am a senior software engineer where I have noticed all these flaws in delivery. I want to do an MBA, get into a management role and correct it.”
This will give you a better chance than telling, “I am a PL/SQL expert and after doing my MBA, I want to be a marketing guru and sell soap.” In the latter, the admission committee reaction in all probability will be “Are you smoking bro?”
Do not save anything for the swim back:
This is a line from the movie ‘Gattacca’. Here the main protagonist and his brother play a game called ‘Chicken’ where they swim out to the sea and the first one who gives up and swims for the shore is the loser.
The brother always wins, because of his better stamina. However at a critical juncture in the movie, the protagonist challenges his brother and wins the contest. When asked how he did it, he simply says, “I never saved anything for the swim back.”
This might be the story of your MBA application essay. If you say, I want to start a mobile application company and with an MBA, I will also have a fall-back option, they will think that you are not confident of yourself. And they don’t like people who save something for the swim back.
What you should not do?
Do not feel sorry for yourself, If you think you have not done extraordinary things. No b-school expects you to be a Bill Gates when you apply there and quite frankly no one is. Remember, even the World’s youngest ‘Billionaire’ Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook) stole his idea.
So be proud of yourself and don’t lie to get that edge. And also know if you are honest you don’t have to remember anything.
Make it all about yourself:
If you fail to talk about the specifics of the program and the course and how that will help you, the schools on their part will consider you to be another self-obsessed narcissist who has applied for reasons other than genuine.
Set your mark at such a low level that you do not need an MBA:
If you state that, at the end of my MBA, all you want to be is the Manager of your project, which quite frankly does not need an MBA, you will get the dreaded ‘dunk’ mail. Set your goals sufficiently high but not as high as they deem it to be incredible.
If you’d like to share what works for you and what doesn’t, please leave a comment in the comment section below.
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