MBA Essay Tips from Johnson’s Admissions Director

Johnson School

Following recent application and essay innovations at Cornell’s Johnson School, interim MBA admissions director Ann W. Richards shared tips on how to approach the new, streamlined essay section.

This year, applicants for both the one-year and two-year Ithaca based MBA programs are asked to write “Your Life Story” in 1,000 characters or less, as though it were the table of contents for the book of Your Life.

Cornell’s Johnson School values creativity and authenticity, and Richards suggests applicants use this format to convey something unique about themselves so that the admissions committee can better understand who you are and what motivates you. Obviously, this prompt differs from a traditional MBA essay, and Richards stresses that it doesn’t need to be a chronological list of your life. Approach it creatively!

Two-year applicants must then share—in 1,000 characters or less—what job they would like to have immediately upon graduating with an MBA. Richards urges honesty in this essay as it will help AdCom determine if Johnson is the right place to move you toward your future goals.

One-year applicants need to explain how their pre-MBA experience prepared them for the job they envision post-MBA—also in 1,000 characters or less. The admissions director explains the reasoning for this question is, “To determine if you can transition into your next job at an accelerated pace.”

Strong candidates will show they’ve done their homework on the career field they want to move into, says Richards, and can demonstrate they’ve got the skills and experience to bring their career up to the next level.

The optional essay is the place to address any aspects of your application you feel need further explanation, but Richards says applicants could also use the space to drive home all of their strengths. Either approach is welcome, though the director warns against recycling an optional essay written for another program!

The admissions team at Cornell’s Johnson School will be traveling across the globe in August, with events scheduled in Shanghai and Beijing next week, Forté Forum events on the East Coast mid-month, and MBA fairs in various South American cities at the end of August.

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