MBA schools typically ask applicants to write more than one essay. Sometimes, they ask for a lot of essays. Your MBA essay package should work together, like chapters in a book, to provide the admissions officers with a complete picture of your potential and an understanding of why you are excited about the opportunity to join their program (and their network!). Because of this, having a solid plan of attack for your statement of purpose for MBA program will save you time and frustration while also moving you towards the goal of having essays that will help your application stand apart from the crowd.
1. Think about each prompt individually as well as part of the group
Then take a break and read them again before you start brainstorming and especially before you start writing. We’re all just human, and there is always a tendency to read what we expect to read instead of what’s actually there. This isn’t really a problem with the more open-ended prompts asking general questions about your goals. However, for the more specific prompts, it is not uncommon for me to work with an applicant who has misread or misunderstood the topic of the prompt. An average essay that addresses the prompt thoroughly beats an outstanding but off-topic essay any day.
2. Brainstorm ideas for the entire essay package
When brainstorming for anecdotes or supporting examples, think about these as a group. Maybe there’s a more general essay where you could briefly mention a significant accomplishment. However, it might be better to save that anecdote for a smaller essay where you can really furnish the admissions officers with the background and detail necessary to fully express why that experience was significant for your career progress. Finally, bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes smaller achievements where you played a larger role can convey a meaningful step in your career development, especially when discussing qualities such as leadership or project management.
3. Have a clear idea of what your immediate, short, and long-term goals are
Your MBA personal statement is not a contract between you and the school. If things don’t work out as you have planned, your MBA will not be revoked. Even so, graduate business school admissions officers want to know that you have a concrete plan for the short term and a realistic vision for the long game.
4. If you have a story that you want to tell but doesn’t fit any specific prompt, split it up
It’s okay to discuss the same experience in different essays as long as there is not significant overlap. For example, in one essay you might highlight the outcomes of an experience such as cost savings or percentage of higher revenue. In another essay, you might discuss the same incident but highlight interpersonal skills such as resolving conflicts. This can be a way to convey significant achievements in your career while not dedicating a major portion of any one essay to the experience.
5. Be forthright in writing about ethical dilemmas and failures
One of the most common pitfalls that I see every year is applicants that try to write about a failure as if it were really a success or an ethical dilemma where there wasn’t really any debate or decision to be made. If you do this, then your essay will be off-topic and irrelevant. Moreover, it will send a message to the admissions officers that you lack the ability to self-reflect or accept the type of difficult feedback that is sometime necessary in order to help us grow. Instead, approach these prompts directly and with humility to demonstrate your dedication to improving your skill set.
Bonus Pro-Tip: Despite the variety of prompts that MBA programs ask, the tone and style need to be consistent throughout the essay package. In short, no matter what, you should always use clear and concise ‘business writing’ that is professional from start to finish.