Writing an MBA admissions essay can be daunting for many prospective students—but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the essay section presents a unique opportunity for applicants to show that they’re more than just a GMAT score, a GPA or the jobs outlined on a resume. MBA admissions essays are not one-size-fits-all, and while this flexibility allows applicants to express themselves more freely, the lack of structure can leave many students scratching their heads. The truth is that there is no secret to impressing the admissions committee—and if you try too hard to tell them what they want to hear, you may end up hindering your chances of acceptance. Instead, you should take full advantage of the creative freedom that you’ve been given while also adhering to a few core points that can help you demonstrate that you are an ideal candidate. As you prepare your application, here is some guidance for making your essay stand out.
1. Make Sure You Answer the Question
It may sound obvious, but it is imperative that you actually answer the question that is being asked. When you only vaguely address the question, it shows a lack of focus or worse—an inability to follow directions. To ensure that you are on the right track, stop writing and re-read the question halfway through. Have you veered off topic? Sometimes gaining an outsider’s perspective is necessary to determining whether you have clearly answered the question, so you might also ask for feedback from someone you trust. One good strategy is to have a colleague read your essay, without letting them know the prompt. Can your colleague tell you what the prompt was? If so, you know that you have answered the question clearly.
2. Explain Your Career Goals
The admissions committee is looking for applicants who are dedicated and goal oriented. To demonstrate these qualities, you need to do more than state what industry you see yourself working in post-graduation. Be specific. What kind of company appeals to you? What role do you see yourself stepping into in the future? How is an MBA going to help you get there? Separate your short-term and long-term goals to show that you have distinct objectives for your time in the MBA program and beyond. Then, detail how your studies and work experiences contribute to your overall strengths and help differentiate you as an applicant. Most important, explain how an MBA degree is going to help you achieve your long-term career aspirations. It may help to look through the course catalog and identify specific classes that will allow you to reach your goals. Do market research to demonstrate your knowledge of the industry and your understanding of recent trends and developments within the field, and consider including a timeline for your career objectives so that the admissions team can see you have a realistic vision.
3. Be Clear and Concise
Wordiness, particularly in the introduction, will get you nowhere—and may turn off the reader. In fact, U.S. News & World Report noted that many schools have cut the essay length by as much as half. Pay attention to your word count, and be sure you don’t exceed the maximum length requirement. Many schools consider it far more impressive when a student’s writing is straightforward and succinct, rather than long and wordy. It is a skill that shows discipline and attention to detail, and one that the admissions committee knows will be valuable in the business world, whether a person is giving a presentation, pitching an idea or composing a report. However, it can still be easier to start out with more content and trim as needed. That way you can make sure you cover all the essential points.
4. Highlight Your Unique Selling Points
It’s important to reflect on what personal qualities or experiences might give you an edge over other prospective students. Share specific anecdotes and vivid details to make your essay more memorable and help distinguish you from other applicants. Many schools offer an optional additional essay, and it can be in your best interest to answer this question. Depending on the school’s essay prompts, it can be challenging to share everything that makes you a viable candidate within the confines of the required essay questions. Feel free to use the optional essay to present any facts or details that show a different side of you. If there are any inconsistencies in your academic or professional background, the optional essay is a great chance to address them.