Tuesday Tips – Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School Essay Tips

Washington University’s Olin Business School focuses on evaluating candidates on both past evidence of achievement in leadership and teamwork across work and extracurricular activities, as well as future potential. Another key factor is a diversity of background and experience that candidates can bring to Olin and contribute to their teammates.

When approaching this short set of essays, evaluate your application strategy carefully and select your topics judiciously. The first essay calls for a succinct explanation of your career goals, with scarce room to outline some of your past experiences. In Essay 2 you will have the opportunity to describe a bit about your background and demonstrate your knowledge of the Olin Business School. Essay 3 is your opportunity to show your background and potential for leadership and or teamwork. Whichever option you choose, take the opportunity to provide a very specific example that can demonstrate your abilities and potential. Optional essays are generally used to explain any weakness in your application profile, yet in this case it would make a lot of sense to use this essay to tell a story from your strategy that you did not have room for elsewhere, especially on an extracurricular or personal topic.

Essay 1. Describe your short- and long-term career goals upon completion of the MBA. Please be as specific as possible.(300 word maximum)

A standard career goals essay, Washington University’s Olin Business School gives you very little room to describe your short and long term career goals while providing the necessary background information. Make sure you answer the question thoroughly and that your goals fit logically together.

You will want to be selective with the background you do provide in this question since you will need significant space for your goals. Choose examples from your background that fit logically with your goals and provide evidence of your passion for your goals. If you are not currently working in the field you are planning to join after business school, focus on the research you have done or the extracurricular experiences you have had that are relevant to your goals.

Essay 2. Explain your specific interest in the Olin Business School. In other words, why do you view Olin as a good fit for you? (300 word maximum)

To make up for the short career goals essay, you have an entire essay to explain why you are a great fit for Olin. This is also an opportunity to describe a bit about yourself. Focus on your career goals and the resources you will gain from Olin, while also discussing some of your extracurricular experiences and personal attributes that support your fit with Olin. Overall you will want to hit all of the aspects Olin would like to know about you, and also demonstrate your familiarity with the program.

Olin is receptive to providing you as much support for your application as possible. In addition to the opportunity to visit the program in person, you can interact with admissions at recruiting events sponsored by the Consortium and the Forte Foundation among others. The website also offers information on student life.

Essay 3. Respond to exactly one of the following essay topics (400 word maximum):

a. Describe your most significant accomplishment and why you view it as such.

This essay is similar to the HBS essay of the same topic, yet you have more space to elaborate upon your accomplishment and provide plenty of evidence. Taking the opportunity to highlight your leadership skills or teamwork ability would be an ideal focus for this essay. Elaborate upon what you did in the situation and how you approached the solution. End with reflection upon why you consider the accomplishment to be significant to you.

b. How do you define or describe successful leadership?

This is a fairly abstract question, and it will be important to offer examples ”“ preferably from your own experiences ”“ to make any descriptions or definitions concrete. You can approach this question by providing either examples where you have been part of a team with a great leader, or even when the team and leader have not performed as well. Either way, you should elaborate upon what you learned from the experience and how it has influenced your own behavior. Overall, communicating how you define or describe leadership by using real-life examples will both engage the reader and communicate effectively about your own candidacy.

c. What do you expect will be your greatest professional challenge upon completion of your MBA?

This essay is also fairly open-ended. One approach is to think about your strengths and weaknesses and discuss one of your weaknesses and why it would be a challenge. This could be a fairly risky strategy, however, and should be balanced with plenty of discussion of your strengths and ability to overcome any challenges.

Another approach could be more global and elaborate upon some aspect of your future industry that you consider to be a challenge. If you are someone who has a record of innovative thinking, this is a great place to describe some of the past challenges you have overcome in this way. Similarly you might be excellent problem-solver and can demonstrate that ability. In any case, think about the unique personal qualities you bring and can contribute to any potential challenge in your future career.

Olin Washington Essay 4 (optional). Provide any additional information about your application that you believe would be helpful to the Admissions Committee. (300 word maximum)

If you need this space to address any perceived weakness in your application profile, outline the issue briefly and spend some time providing explanations and not excuses.

Otherwise, this is a great opportunity to provide additional information for the admissions committee. If you have a unique or diverse background, have overcome a significant personal challenge or have been heavily involved in a community activity this would be a great opportunity to describe that situation. Focus on a solid example and provide some reflection upon the example and a reason why this additional information is important to your candidacy.

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