Who Thinks Up Those MBA Essay Questions?

With so many elite schools either reducing the number of required essays in recent years, or getting really creative with their prompts—raise your hand if you remember Berkeley Haas‘s “If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why?”—many applicants probably wonder just how the admissions team comes up with its MBA essay prompts each year.

BusinessWeek attempts to quench the curiosity of inquiring minds with its story on how MBA essay questions get written.

For example, the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University asks applicants to share a list of “25 Random Things” about themselves,  so that candidates get away from the tendency to overly manufacture what they think AdCom wants to hear, says Liz Riley Hargrove, associate dean for admissions at the Duke MBA program.

Coming up with 25 random things to list in this essay may seem daunting at first, but this creative exercise is certainly an opportunity to follow the admissions committee’s advice to share what makes you a dynamic, multi-dimensional person.

MIT Sloan School of Management meanwhile is throwing applicants for a loop this year by asking candidates to write an essay in the form of a professional letter of recommendation on behalf of themselves. While this is something applicants are often tempted to do, Rod Garcia, senior director of admissions at Sloan, says the idea clicked when admissions staff members had to write their own annual reviews.

For the second year, Kellogg School of Management asks applicants to record a video essay, where applicants get two questions that they may take 20 seconds to think over and one minute to answer. Kate Smith, assistant dean of Kellogg’s admissions and financial aid office, tells BusinessWeek that although participants are often nervous on video, this is “a skill that students are going to need to have in the globally complex landscape of business.”

You can learn more about where business schools find the inspiration to generate ever more interesting, illuminating glimpses into the real lives of MBA applicants by following the link above back to the original article.

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