MBA Essay Writing Tips
Who You Are?
The top MBA programs are looking for more than a great CV. They
want to know before they "buy" that your personal qualities will be
a value-adding addition to their class mix. Further, they would like
to get a sense of how you are unique. So, let your essays create a
three dimensional portrait of yourself.
You'll of course like to show the readers that you're a leader, a
good team worker, mature, and self-aware. If you can, show a sense
of humor. Even better, take whatever it is that makes you different
(professional saxophone skills, an alpinist's love of heights, a
passion for Buddhist sculpture, etc.) and bring it forward. This is
what the reader will likely remember, and this might well be the
point that gives you an advantage over people with professional
profiles similar to yours.
Avoid arrogance at all costs. In writing, there is a fine line
separating arrogance from self-confidence and poise. A good rule of
thumb: you know yourself, but you can't assume much about others.
Thus, you can be "smart" but you want to avoid claiming you are the
"smartest" (even if you are).
What Motivates You?
Now that the admissions readers have a sense of who you are, they
will want to know why. What values have made you who you are? A need
to achieve? A passion for your sector? Why are you a high achiever?
Why have you made the life choices reflected in your education and
professional history? All of these points will give a very strong
indication of the values you will bring into the program.
What Are Your Goals?
Just as important as the Who and the Why, the Where (are you
going) will show the reader that you have a professional project
that fits (indeed, necessitates) a top MBA program. Further, the
reader will be able to evaluate your project against all other parts
of your dossier to get a feel for how likely you are to succeed.
"But wait a minute!" you might say, "I want a top MBA for the
professional options it will bring. Plus, I need two years in a
stimulating academic environment to explore new interests and try
new things. How can anyone expect me to present a well thought-out
career plan?" This is a valid point, and in fact relatively few MBAs
actually realize the grand plans presented in their dossiers.
Nonetheless, a well-thought out plan, displaying knowledge,
research, a sense of self understanding, and some common sense, is a
crucial confidence-builder. Like a business plan, your professional
project must convince people to invest in you.
So what should you discuss? First, you should be able to state
clearly and succinctly a post-MBA career objective and a slightly
broader goal for MBA + five years. A good example might be something
like, "I intend to pursue a career in one of the Top 6 management
consulting firms, building on my HR experience and language skills
to become an acknowledged expert in the field of international HR
management. In five years time, I'll either reach partner level, or
leave the firm to become chief of HR for a Fortune 500 global
Once you have your professional objectives clear and on the
table, you'll want to construct a logical bridge connected where you
are now professionally, an MBA, the specific program to which you're
applying, and your post-MBA objective. Explain why an MBA is
necessary for you to reach your goal. Why you have to study now. And
why Kellogg is the only, best place to go. Make your logic
How Well You Communicate?
All of that is already a lot to accomplish in a set of rather
brief essays. In fact, the strict length guidelines imposed by the
admissions offices are in part a challenge to test your written
communication skills. While good business writing cannot be taught
in a few lines, here are some key hints.
Make it clear, to the point, and grammatically correct. Don't
waste your words (and the readers' time), and don't leave readers
scratching their heads trying to figure out what you mean to say.
Make it persuasive, positive, and personal. Your dossier works
like a business plan, remember? So make your essays persuasive that
you are worth the risk of admitting you. Next, even if you've had a
tough life don't whine about it. Let these difficulties serve as
chances for you to exhibit positive achievements. And as for the
future, why do an MBA if you're not optimistic?
Show, don't tell. Straightforward claims ("I'm a super hard
worker!") are often hard to believe and come across as arrogant or
worse. Instead, substantiate your claims through anecdotes (that
one-month project you headed with a one-week deadline). Stories are
interesting; they are remembered; most importantly, they communicate
the same message as a claim but in a more persuasive way.
How Serious You Are?
Admissions officers definitely use your essays as a gauge of your
ATD Quotient (Attention To Detail). Make certain your essays show
more than a weekend's work, that there are absolutely no typos, and
of course that they are your own work rather than something you
downloaded off the Net.
By now, you must realize that the Personal Statement is, all by
itself, a big project. Schedule at least eight weeks to get them