How to write an essay for MBA
Some valuable tips to add that needed weight to your MBA application
Your MBA essay is a highly personalised and powerful tool to communicate with the admissions committee of your desired B-school. Here, I stress on the word ‘personal’ because it is through this essay that you are conveying your USPs, in your own voice. It gives you the opportunity to market yourself as an ideal candidate beyond the obvious factual elements represented by your resume, transcripts, and test scores. The essay signifies a crucial ῀15% of your chance of admission.
While requirements for admissions’ essays can vary greatly, there are a few cardinal rules to remember while choosing what you write:
1. Who are YOU
B-schools want to know about you! Relate only those stories that convey your aptitude, strengths, and motivations the best. If you are talking of team assignments, focus on your role and contributions, not on the general efforts or outputs. And be sure to establish your USPs – what makes you stand apart from the crowd, why should the school invest in you over other equally qualified candidates, what is that unique thing you will bring to their community and classroom now and later as an alumnus?
2. Customise to fit
- For school: If you are applying to multiple schools, it is important for you to understand what each program is looking for and select anecdotes accordingly. For instance, one school may prefer candidates with superior quant skills; another may prefer those with inclusive leadership styles.
- For goals: It is important to show that you have the basic skills and knowledge, which clubbed with what you learn from the program, will ensure you achieve your goals post-program. For example, if you want a career in finance, you need to show commercial and analytical acumen, familiarity with modelling and/or reporting, credentials like CFA/CA, etc; if you are targeting product management roles, you must demonstrate technical and product lifecycle understanding, critical thinking, customer relationship management skills, etc.
- Additional: In the present context, it may be relevant to showcase how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted your goals – your understanding of opportunities and challenges that have arisen and how you can use your MBA and career thereafter to leverage/address those.
3. Convey primary strengths
Certain skills like leadership, communication, teamwork, and problem-solving are mandatory for all MBA aspirants. Ensure your essays reflect these traits.
4. Show quantifiable impact
As a business leader, you must be able to create value for your employers, clients, and teams. From past experience, showcase whenever you have done this and quantify that impact in terms of numbers, data, and stats. This will help the school evaluate your future potential.
5. Be passionate
MBA is all about excitement, energy, and enthusiasm! To ensure you will sail through the rigorous months of innumerable assignments, experiential opportunities, campus activities, and networking, the admissions committee will analyse if you are motivated and focused enough to go through the grind, achieve your goals, do your best in each context, and enrich your peer group through your participation and contributions both inside and outside the classroom. Make your essays the platform to communicate this passion.
6. Be consistent
Many programs ask for multiple essays. An important thing to remember in this regard is that your stories must complement and add to each other. There shouldn’t be any contradictions in the image you are building or the ideas you are trying to convey.
Writing an MBA essay requires introspection and clarity of thought. Those who hurry can fall prey to some common mistakes.
1. Don’t repeat facts
If your essay is a laundry list of achievements and data already evident in your resume and other parts of the application, you are wasting a precious opportunity to distinguish yourself. The essay is about real stories of influences/experiences that have shaped your personality, perspectives, and ambitions.
2. Don’t brag
B-schools want to know what makes you, you. The focus is on ‘I.’ However, don’t tell them that you are the best they can ever hope to have! People who have helped you, teams who have worked with and for you, must find representation. Showcase your journey, your growth in the best possible way you can, but let them infer that you are the best.
3. Don’t generalise
Everyone knows so and so B-school is highly ranked, will give you opportunities to build leadership, has accreditations, etc. Don’t tell them what they already know. Tell them how the school and the program is the best fit for YOU and your goals. Be specific and real!
4. Don’t go back to school
Technically, B-schools are interested in your past 2-3 years. Talking about your school days and achievements isn’t going to establish your present strengths and credibility. They also make it evident that you don’t have anything better to write about.
5. Don’t make grammatical or structural errors
Missing answering the question or all parts of the question correctly, overshooting the word limit specified, and leaving grammatical errors in the copy compromise your chances of admission greatly. Be serious about your submissions, proofread, and ensure there are no careless mistakes.
6. Don’t use jargons
If you have had a technical or niche career, avoid using those industrial jargons in your essays. Keep the language and presentation simple and lucid but effective. Ensure every essay is a complete unit and even a layman can understand what you are talking about.
In sum, the MBA essay is all about showcasing your versatility, individuality, and distinctiveness. Use the platform to prove that you will be a great addition to their classroom and community!
Updated on August 27, 2020
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Aman Tyagi is a part of IDP Education’s US client relations team at the South Asia headquarters in Gurgaon. In his current capacity, he’s responsible for ensuring that all IDP students and counsellors are up-to-date with policies, requirements and any process changes related to the USA. With the help of his team of 22 editors, he also ensures that all applications (pan India) made to the US institutions are of top notch quality before they reach the admissions committee.
By education, Aman is a graduate in Events Management & Marketing from a prestigious UK institution with over 7 years of experience in the education industry. Previously, he has worked on hosting Education Policy Roundtables & Dialogues between India and Australia.