Many undergraduate business and MBA schools require students to submit a few short essays with their application. The essays provide an important opportunity to show admissions officers who you are and why you deserve to be accepted into their program. Schools want to learn about long-term career goals and motivation for attending a business school. They are also looking for authentic demonstrations of leadership and problem-solving abilities, entrepreneurial spirit and people skills.
The following guidelines can provide assistance as you prepare for and write the essays:
Answer The Question
This may seem obvious, but it’s a common mistake of stressed-out applicants. Read each question carefully and make sure that your response provides a direct answer to what is being asked.
Reflect on Your Career Goals
Most schools will include a question about career aspirations. Being able to craft a good response to this is important at the undergraduate level, but particularly so for an MBA. Undergraduates should consider what areas of study within a business program excite them and how that may apply to their future career plans. Be specific in setting out goals. They may change, but what matters now is that you have them.
MBA candidates need to determine what a particular school offers that will enhance their job experience and assist them to implement their career plan. Be as direct as possible in outlining goals. Not only does it show focus and motivation, it also helps schools learn how you will benefit from their program and how, upon graduation, they might help you obtain a position in your field of choice.
You are pitching your knowledge and experience to schools, so make the most of your experience by considering all the positives. Be justifiably proud of your accomplishments by showing the effort and persistence needed to achieve them. Look for the positives in every experience — even a summer spent loading boxes in a warehouse can provide you with important insights about the nature of work. Show your best self to the admission committee by demonstrating that you understand the strengths in your resumé and in your character. One caution: don’t overdo it. Try not to brag or exaggerate your importance in any specific role. Just be authentic.
Provide Evidence of Leadership Skills
Most schools will also ask a question about leadership. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses much more than just “being in charge.” Before writing an essay on this topic, spend some time considering what leadership means to you. Then, define it in relation to your own experience, whether that involves mentorship, persistence in the face of difficulty, developing new or innovative approaches to a situation, demonstrating a good work ethic or making hard choices when necessary.
Know Why You Are Applying to a Particular School
Many schools will ask directly why you are choosing them, but even if they don’t, it can be helpful to show knowledge of their program. If the school is too far away to visit, you can look through course catalogues and take advantage of opportunities to connect with alumni or current students via social networks. Show your enthusiasm about the school by understanding its culture and the particulars of the courses. Be specific about areas that you might want to pursue.
Prove that You Are a Good Communicator
Good writing skills are essential in the business world. So make sure your essay is well written: avoid clichés and business jargon; use simple, clear and direct language; show rather than tell admissions officers how great you are; edit and proofread so that there are no grammatical errors or typos.