Writing a persuasive MBA essay is key to gaining admission to the business school of your choice. The essay can take many different forms, varying from school to school. For example, a famous question asked on the Stanford College MBA application is: “What matters most to you, and why?” If you’re applying to more than one institution, you’ll have to amend your answers to be specific to both the question and the school to which you’re applying.
However, the purpose of the essay remains the same. Director of Admissions at the Booth School of Business in Chicago, Lisa Koengeter, says that it gives the admissions team “a better understanding of you, your self-assessment and your aspirations”. It is easier to prepare answers – or at least outlines – when you know what categories these questions are likely to fall into.
Here are the four main types of MBA essay questions you will encounter, with some ideas about how you can approach them:
1. Personal Statement
Business schools are looking to accept students whose values and passions align most closely with their own. Make sure you do your research into the principles that the schools you’re applying to are run by. For example, Haas Business School (UC Berkeley, CA) seeks to define itself by four major principles: question the status quo, confidence without attitude, students always, beyond yourself. Here at EU Business School, we believe in being global and connected, open, transformational, and pragmatic.
In your essay, it is crucial to demonstrate how you connect with these principles. You can do this by talking about past experiences (e.g., a challenge you faced) or your interpersonal relationships (e.g., with your mentor).
Essentially, this essay needs to explain to the admissions board who you are, what you believe in, and how that relates to the business school’s own mission or values.
2. Career Goals
The purpose of studying for an MBA is to gain knowledge and experience, grow your network, and to advance your career. What direction do you want your life to take after you graduate? Maybe you’re looking to change jobs, get on the management track, earn more money, or even start your own company. Whatever your objectives may be, the admissions board wants to know.
Having their graduates placed in top-tier positions looks good for a school (it also means you might be successful enough to donate to their programs in the future). So, they’re looking to accept candidates with just the right amount of ambition. Too little vision and your application won’t make the cut. Too much, and your goals might appear unrealistic.
Therefore, the key to writing a persuasive career goals essay is balance. Outline goals that are meaningful but based on your skills, experience, and background, so they are achievable.
Remember, once you have summarized your goals, you also need to state how a particular MBA course is going to help you achieve them.
Programs vary depending on the institution, and many schools now offer specialist MBAs, if you want to focus on one specific aspect of business. At EU Business School, we offer MBAs in 11 specialisms, including International Business, Marketing, Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Human Resources.
The admissions team wants to know what it is about a course that makes it the right fit for you, with the goals that you have in mind.
In a career goals essay, you are telling a business school what they can do for you, and how they can help you achieve your goals. The purpose of a contribution or participation essay is to show the school what you can do for them, setting up a running club on campus, for example. Admissions officers need to feel confident that you will add value to their cohort and that you will be an active member of the student community.
In your contribution essay, you should highlight what kinds of social clubs and academic activities you are interested in taking part in. Think about where you can make the biggest contribution to college life. What experiences do you have that could benefit your peers and the wider student body?
4. Experience and Leadership
Writing an outstanding experience and leadership essay requires a lot of self-reflection. The question, in this case, could be something like, “tell us about a time when you led a team”, or “tell us about a time when you failed”. Questions like these are used to find out more about your style of leadership, how you handle setbacks, and whether you’re ready to learn what a school’s program can teach you.
To inspire self-reflection when you are writing your essay, ask yourself the following questions:
- What makes you a good leader?
- How did you solve a tricky problem in a previous role?
- How did you work with people who weren’t on your team, were you able to motivate them as effectively?
- How did you boost team morale?
- Do you have any formal or informal mentorship experience?
And when it comes to writing about your weaknesses, failures, professional setbacks, etc., remember to do the following:
- Talk about a genuine failure or weakness.
- Reflect on your weaknesses.
- Describe what you learned from the experience.
Applying to EU
EU’s MBA programs have been specifically designed for working professionals and those who have previously held management positions. They have received numerous honors, including being ranked #1 globally by CEO Magazine for seven years in a row. On the course, students receive the most up-to-date teachings on the modern, international business environment and develop their leadership skills through a combination of lectures, seminars, site visits, and workshops.
We hope the advice given in this article helps you to write a stellar essay and we look forward to welcoming you onto one of our courses in the future.