Tag Archives: essay tips
August 2, 2013
Chicago Booth is consistently rated in the top echelon of MBA programs in the United States and is known for a strong intellectual community. This application is designed to evaluate candidates on their ability to …
Chicago Booth is consistently rated in the top echelon of MBA programs in the United States and is known for a strong intellectual community. This application is designed to evaluate candidates on their ability to handle the Chicago curriculum, contribute to the community, and grow in their careers. This year Chicago has discarded a longer essay on your career goals in favor of two short essays and the creative powerpoint presentation question.
Academic ability will largely be communicated through your GPA/GMAT, transcripts and other fixed data points, though intellectual curiosity can be demonstrated in essays and the interview. Community focuses on your demonstrated leadership, team building skills and community involvement, as well as your fit with Chicago Booth and the perspective you will share with your classmates. All MBA candidates are ultimately looking for a degree that will enhance their career. Chicago Booth wants to know about your track record of success, expectations for the MBA, and plans for the future.
Chicago Booth’s open-ended creative presentation or essay confounds many candidates. Whether you choose to write an essay or prepare a four slide presentation, take a step back from the unique format and think about the question strategically. The power point format simply gives you the freedom to express that answer in words, images, graphics or some combination. The best presentations will be simple, evocative and expressive. Remember, content is far more important than creativity of presentation. Stacy Blackman Consulting has significant experience coaching applicants through the Chicago creative essay. Contact us to learn more about our strategic approach.
Short Answer Essays
Please respond to the following two essay prompts:
a. My favorite part of my work is… (250 words maximum)
This short answer essay is the only explicit inquiry about your career in this set of essays. It is notable that the essay question focuses on passions, not goals. For a question like that it’s important to distill your career aspirations and feelings about your work into a clear statement. Think about why you go to work everyday and the moments that inspire you at your job and in your career. Ideally your career passions hint at what drives you on a deeper level and fit with your personal and extracurricular pursuits as well.
b. I started to think differently when… (250 words maximum)
Chicago is a school with a tradition of intellectual rigor, and the second short answer essay focuses on how your thinking has evolved over time. This question gives you an opportunity to discuss something that has changed your thinking fundamentally. This could be an experience at work, home, or in an extracurricular activity. It could even be a travel experience or something that you saw someone else go through. For example, perhaps a trip to another country changed fundamentally your ideas about society and economics. Or watching a family member struggle with an illness convinced you that preserving health was a fundamental goal of your own life. Whatever the experience was, make sure you are able to succinctly describe it and the way it changed your thinking.
The Chicago experience will take you deeper into issues, force you to challenge assumptions, and broaden your perspective. In a four-slide presentation or an essay of no more than 600 words, broaden our perspective about who you are. Understanding what we currently know about you from the rest of the application, what else would you like us to know?
This creative essay offers you a blank slate to express yourself with any content you choose. When approaching the question focus first on content, and then on delivery.
This is the ideal opportunity to bring in any aspect of your overall story that does not fit in any other essay. Think about any aspects of leadership, teamwork and intellectual curiosity you have already presented in the previous essays, and where the gaps are. If you wrote about your professional experiences in prior essays, the presentation could focus on personal stories. If there wasn’t enough opportunity to outline your core career passions in your resume or other essays this could be a place to illuminate that detail.
If you decide to write an essay response, you have enough space to tell a story that describes something new about yourself. If you decide to prepare a power point in response to this essay question, refine your story to its key elements. Four slides is a limited amount of space to communicate a lot of detail. Can you use photos? Drawings? If you use words, keep them clear and focused. Take every point up a level, so you are communicating a vision rather than a thesis.
Reapplicant Question: Upon reflection, how has your perspective regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (300 words maximum)
This reapplication essay question gives you the opportunity to focus on your thinking and development rather than any tangible changes you have made since you last applied. Of course, if you do have new accomplishments like a promotion or higher GMAT score that will be of significant value to your re-application. If you do not have any new hard changes to your profile this essay is an opportunity to show that you have done the work to evaluate your candidacy and have made changes this time around. The word reflection is explicit in the question, and the admissions committee will be looking for your thoughtful consideration of Chicago, your future and your MBA plans.
August 1, 2013
Fit is a crucial aspect to demonstrate in your Kellogg MBA application. The close-knit community values leadership and teamwork. At the same time, diversity in experience, background and thought is valued among the developing leaders …
Fit is a crucial aspect to demonstrate in your Kellogg MBA application. The close-knit community values leadership and teamwork. At the same time, diversity in experience, background and thought is valued among the developing leaders of Kellogg. Doing your research on the programs, activities, clubs, classes and professors at Kellogg will be important as you approach your essays. While you are reading and conversing with students and alumni, keep in mind how you envision your own background adding to the community.
This year, Kellogg has added a mandatory video interview to the application process. While it won’t replace the in-person interview for Kellogg, it is an opportunity for the admissions committee to see the person behind the accomplishments you will describe. Video interviews can be daunting, and Stacy Blackman Consulting has developed customized preparation to help you practice for this important component of the application and provide our expert feedback. Contact us to learn more about how we can prepare you for the entire Kellogg application.
What’s the greatest obstacle you’ve overcome (personally or professionally)? How has overcoming this obstacle prepared you to achieve success now and in the future? (350 word limit)
This essay question is designed to evaluate your character and how you handle adversity. Even if you have not faced a dramatic difficulty in your life thus far you have definitely encountered challenges. The obstacle is not as important as the lesson, so consider moments in your life when you changed perspective or learned how to solve problems as a result of a difficult situation.
No one has a completely smooth road to success, and it is often the obstacles that clarify your true passions and lead to growth. Leaders are not always perfect when difficulties arise, so even if you made mistakes along the way it is likely you learned from them. The bulk of this short essay should focus on how you overcame the obstacle and what you learned that has prepared you to solve problems or handle challenges. Consider how you would approach a similar difficulty now and what you might advise a friend in a difficult circumstance.
What have been your most significant leadership experiences? What challenges did you face, and what impact did you have? This is your opportunity to explain how you Think Bravely. (500 word limit)
The Kellogg MBA seeks to make “strong leaders stronger.”?Therefore, you will want to demonstrate that you are a strong leader, and that a Kellogg MBA can make you stronger. This question focuses on leadership experiences you have had and seeks to understand how you think and behave in challenging situations that may have tested your ability to work with others.
This behavioral question requires a very specific example to work effectively. The intention for this question is to see an example of a past experience that indicates how you will behave in the future, potentially when you must lead at Kellogg and in your future career. Make sure you include details about exactly what you did and said in your leadership story.
Part 1: What career/role are you looking to pursue and why? (250 word limit)
Part 2: Why are Kellogg and the MBA essential to achieving these career goals? (250 word limit)
(Please answer Part 2 in terms of your program choice: One-Year, Two-Year, MMM, JD-MBA).
This question has changed slightly from prior years and indicates you can approach it either as a long-term or short-term career question. Ideally your career vision is cohesive and both flow together. A career unfolds over time and can include many roles, so it’s most reasonable to consider both your long-term and short-term goals in answering this question.
Doing your research on Kellogg MBA’s academics and resources will help you answer the question about how Kellogg is essential to achieve your goals. Choose specific classes, professors and programs that fit into your career goals. Think about clubs and conferences that are unique to the Kellogg MBA and will advance your career. Your motivation to pursue an MBA at Kellogg should also show that you are interested in being an active part of the community if possible.
If you are applying to the MMM program, you’ll have to show how the MEM degree will prepare you more effectively for your career goals than the MBA alone. Be able to articulate what is different about the Kellogg MMM program as compared to the MBA and other joint degrees. Know the classes you want to take, the professors you hope to work for, and how the MMM experience will be an asset in your future career.
Similarly, the JD-MBA at Kellogg is a highly competitive admissions process and will require a very clear explanation of what you will do with both degrees after school. Consider the unique attributes of the Kellogg JD-MBA program as compared to others, and also why you specifically need both a JD and an MBA.
Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (400 word limit) Please note: re-applicants are required to answer this question in addition to #1-3.
In answering this question make sure you provide tangible evidence that you have improved the overall package you are submitting this year. Improvements like GMAT score or new quantitative classes are especially tangible, but a promotion, increase in responsibility at work, a job change or even a change of goals and mission can apply.
Additional Information (Optional)
If needed, briefly describe any extenuating circumstances (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, etc.) (No word limit)
If there are any areas of concern, this is the correct place to address them. Strike an upbeat tone here and avoid excuses. Explain your issue clearly and focus most of the essay on the correction for the issue. For example, if you had a disciplinary issue in college, spend most of the essay demonstrating that you learned from the experience and have been an ideal citizen ever since. Low GPA issues should be explained here, and if there is a grade of C or below on your transcript the admissions committee will want to know why and feel comfortable it is an outlier in your overall academic record. For academic questions make sure you emphasize your improved performance either later in your college career or in subsequent work or classes since college.
July 19, 2013
Berkeley Haas admissions has been fairly consistent with prior years in this new set of essays for the 2013/2014 applicant. While many schools reduced the number of essay significantly this year, Haas has reduced only …
Berkeley Haas admissions has been fairly consistent with prior years in this new set of essays for the 2013/2014 applicant. While many schools reduced the number of essay significantly this year, Haas has reduced only slightly from five to four required essays. The set of essays for admission to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business covers a variety of topics – from the song that expresses you to your quantitative skills. In approaching these varied questions it will be important to remain focused on what you want to communicate to the admissions committee.
A clear understanding of your application strategy, particularly your career goals and strengths/weaknesses, will be key to put together a cohesive application. While challenging, this is also an opportunity to demonstrate several different aspects of your personality to the admissions committee. Remember when thinking about how to get into Berkeley, to not underestimate the importance of these essays in your application.
Stacy Blackman Consulting has successfully coached applicants to the Haas MBA program for over a decade, contact us to learn more about how we can help you set a winning application strategy.
If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 word maximum)
This sort of essay can be intimidating because it calls for creativity, and the topic is entirely open ended. When approaching a question like this, consider what your personal qualities are that may be interesting to the Haas MBA program, and then consider a song you like that can express that quality. Try to focus on personal, rather than professional, aspects. Whatever song you choose, make sure you have an emotional connection with that song and can relate it to your own personal experiences. For example, perhaps you have a favorite song from childhood that your parents played for you that reminds you of a core value that has guided your choices since.
What is your most significant accomplishment? (250 word maximum)
Your accomplishment can be big or small, but it should be significant to you. While you have limited space, this is an opportunity to demonstrate what matters to you and to showcase one of your proudest moments. While you are asked only about the accomplishment, the best essays will use this limited space to demonstrate clearly what the accomplishment was (be specific!) as well as commenting upon the significance of the accomplishment.
Describe a time in the last three years when you overcame a failure. What specific insight from this experience has shaped your development? (250 word maximum)
This question asks you to think about a time you failed, and a time you learned from that failure. This essay is your opportunity to demonstrate your maturity, flexibility and leadership qualities. Leaders are not people who are always successful, rather they are people who are willing to admit to failure and learn from difficulty.
As you recount your failure it will be crucial to demonstrate what you have learned as concretely as possible. As a thought experiment, try thinking about a recent triumph. Trace your life events backwards until you find a failure, and think about how that failure directly led to your success. For example, perhaps you took a job immediately after college that was not a good fit for you. You may have felt like the job was a failure, but instead of despairing you took the time to think about what you really wanted, and subsequently found a job that led you success in your career. Perhaps your story isn’t career oriented but showcases learning from extracurricular or volunteer involvement.
a. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How have your professional experiences prepared you to achieve these goals?
b. How will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals? (750 word maximum for 4a. and 4b.)
This is a fairly typical career goals essay that asks for both short- and long-term goals and the background that led you to this juncture in your career. Think about what you hope to achieve with your MBA and the career opportunities it will reveal for you. You don’t need to recite your resume here – rather highlight the key experiences that will be relevant in your future career.
Be specific about why the Haas School of Business is the right program to pursue your goals as well. As you consider past experiences and your future goals you will be able to see what you want to gain from the Haas experience to fill any gaps. If you have an advertising background and want to become a brand manager you’ll likely need classes in operations and finance to understand the analytical side of brand management. Other goals will require specific skills gained from an MBA and your own unique background will inform how you take advantage of the Haas experience. Make sure you have determined exactly what courses make sense for your career goals and the programs and clubs that you will participate in to reach your personal and professional goals. Thorough school research will be invaluable in approaching this question.
Please feel free to provide a statement concerning any information you would like to add to your application that you haven’t addressed elsewhere. (500 word maximum)
This question is entirely open ended, so you can either use it to explain anything you need to in your application, or add another aspect to your overall profile. If you need to explain something in your application like a low GPA or a recommender that is not your current supervisor, keep the explanation brief and factual. Focus on explanations, not excuses. If you felt that there are stories in your work, extracurricular, or personal profile that you did not have the opportunity to express in the prior essays, this is an opportunity to add that information.
If not clearly evident, please discuss ways in which you have demonstrated strong quantitative abilities, or plan to strengthen quantitative abilities. You do not need to list courses that appear on your transcript. (250 word maximum)
If you have a strong quantitative background like an engineering or hard sciences degree, or you work in a quantitative field like finance, this may not be a necessary essay. Otherwise, you may want to take one or two examples to demonstrate that you have an analytical mind and can take a quantitative approach to problem solving and evaluating data. As the question specifically asks you not to focus on the grades on your transcript, use this space to describe projects at work, additional post-graduate coursework, or your plans to strengthen your quant skills before you enroll at Haas.
July 17, 2013
UCLA Anderson always kept the application process streamlined, with only two required essays. This year the required essays were reduced to one, focusing only on your career goals. With such a limited amount of space …
UCLA Anderson always kept the application process streamlined, with only two required essays. This year the required essays were reduced to one, focusing only on your career goals. With such a limited amount of space to highlight everything you may want to communicate to UCLA Anderson you will need to think seriously about the stories you want to tell.
With over a decade of experience helping applicants just like you, contact us to learn how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help you define your best essay content.
What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and how will an MBA from UCLA Anderson specifically help you achieve these goals? (750 words maximum)
The UCLA MBA program is asking for a clear set of career goals that will demonstrate the need for an MBA from UCLA Anderson. Since you are not directly asked to explain your entire career path, focus on the high points that are most relevant to your career goals. When did you face a turning point or make a big decision about your career? What were some of your proudest accomplishments? If you are a management consultant now and want to become an entrepreneur, what have you learned and experienced that will help you with those plans?
It may be relevant to provide background that highlights your career passions and sets up your future goals. Briefly explain what you plan to do immediately after graduation, and then what you want to accomplish over the long-term with your career. A career path that focuses on demonstrated passions and interests throughout your life is going to be most compelling as you write this essay.
Along with citing specific classes, professors and programs that fit into your career goals, include the social and extracurricular aspects that attract you to the small and close-knit experience at Anderson. Be specific as you discuss the clubs and conferences that are unique to the UCLA MBA.
Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words maximum)
It is important to focus on explanations rather than excuses in this essay. Potential extenuating circumstances may be a very low GPA, academic probation or using a recommender other than your current supervisor. Clearly explain the situation, and if it is a situation from the past, explain why you have changed. Providing evidence that you will not repeat the actions in question will be very important.
Please describe your career progress since you last applied and ways in which you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (700 words maximum).
The reapplication essay requires demonstrating significant strides since your last application. Keep in mind that the admissions committee will have access to your previous application. This question is specific about requiring an update on your career progress since your last application. This may be a difficult question to answer if you have not been promoted or taken a new job, so think about the areas in your career that have been improved since last year. Did you take on new responsibility? What about projects or leadership opportunities? While refining your goals is progress and can enhance your application, make sure your story is consistent with your last application and that you have thoroughly explained any changes in your thinking since the last time you applied.
Soul searching and feedback from others likely set you on the path to improve one or more areas that may have been weak in your last application. This essay is your opportunity to outline your better GMAT score, classes you took, additional extracurriculars, or a significant increase in responsibility at work.
The third part of this essay is to demonstrate how you will contribute to the UCLA MBA program. If you are a reapplicant you have likely had the time to learn even more about the school since your last application, and your research will pay off in this essay. Be specific about your skills and how you will contribute, along with the aspects of UCLA Anderson that will be of benefit to your goals.
July 12, 2013
On its website, MIT Sloan states that “MIT Sloan is simply more dedicated to creating effective innovation than any other leading school.” Innovation is key for MIT Sloan and seeks interesting students to build a …
On its website, MIT Sloan states that “MIT Sloan is simply more dedicated to creating effective innovation than any other leading school.” Innovation is key for MIT Sloan and seeks interesting students to build a class that can learn from each other and continue the tradition of innovation.
When approaching this set of essays, your task is to remain focused on your overall application strategy and choose two key stories that can showcase your achievements at school, work and extracurricular activities while demonstrating that you will contribute to MIT Sloan’s mission. This year MIT Sloan has removed the iconic cover letter requirement, and has added an extremely open ended aspect to the optional essay.
Essay 1: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and generate ideas that advance management practice. Discuss how you will contribute toward advancing the mission based on examples of past work and activities. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)
The two behavioral questions in the MIT Sloan application require you to describe your past accomplishments and experience on a very pragmatic level. A key part of the MIT Sloan set of essays is the focus on understanding how you work, think and act. The instructions ask you to provide a brief overview of the situation, and then follow the situation with a detailed description of what you did. This requires being very specific about your thoughts and actions as you respond to each essay question.
This question is seeking to understand how you develop and execute on ideas. A work or extracurricular example where you demonstrated the ability to generate strategy and execute upon it would be ideal here. How did you identify your idea? What did you do to develop it? What did you ultimately accomplish? This essay will demonstrate your intellectual capacity and curiosity, which are crucial attributes MIT Sloan is looking for in MBA admits.
Essay 2: Describe a time when you pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)
This essay is the second behavioral question in the set, consistent with MIT Sloan’s belief that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. This essay gives you an opportunity to choose a personal, work or extracurricular example and to show an interesting side to your personality or background.
If you have had significant international experience this may be an ideal question to showcase how you adapted to a new culture. Or perhaps you pursued a sport or hobby that was difficult for you and were able to prove to yourself that you could master a new skill. Remember that the story is less important than what you thought, felt and did and that this essay is an opportunity to showcase your unique personal qualities.
Optional Question: The Admissions Committee invites you to share anything else you would like us to know about you, in any format.
This year MIT Sloan has created an entirely open ended optional essay and invited applicants to respond to the essay in any format desired. This allows you to do anything you need to with this space, including clarifying any concerns or highlighting interesting aspects of your background or profile.
This essay is an ideal opportunity to provide any information that you were unable to work into the other two essays and provide a new angle on your candidacy. If you have an unusual background, hobby or extracurricular experience, this may be an opportunity to provide that information to the admissions committee. With similar questions asked by other MBA programs in the past Stacy Blackman Consulting has advised candidates on everything from photo journalism projects to customized multimedia presentations. The format is far less important than the content, but it’s also true that images or presentations can provide a new perspective on your application.
Stumped by your MIT Sloan MBA application? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help.
July 11, 2013
Darden was the trendsetter two years ago when they first introduced the single MBA essay question. The other school most devoted to the case method, HBS, has followed suit this year and many other programs …
Darden was the trendsetter two years ago when they first introduced the single MBA essay question. The other school most devoted to the case method, HBS, has followed suit this year and many other programs have streamlined the number of questions or the word counts for the essay portion of the application.
While writing only 500 words may seem simple, it gives you much less room to highlight all of the important parts of your profile for the admissions committee. Writing a compelling essay with such limited space is actually quite challenging and requires you to focus only on the most important aspects you need to communicate. Leadership is crucial to future Darden MBAs. Personal qualities are also crucial to Darden, a school with a small, tight-knit community. Learn more about the school by visiting the Darden website, attending events and speaking with current students and alumni.
MBA Application Essay Question:
Share your thought process as you encountered a challenging work situation or complex problem. What did you learn about yourself? (500 words maximum)
In this question Darden is asking to understand how you behave in a challenging or complex situation and what such challenges have taught you about yourself. The best use of this essay space will use specific examples to illustrate how you handled the challenge or problem and how you arrived at your change in perspective.
Before you start answering the question it may help to brainstorm some of your best professional accomplishment stories. As you think about the areas where you have excelled you may find that many of your accomplishments were preceded by a challenge or problem you needed to solve. Work backgrounds from the accomplishment to see where the challenge or issue arose and how you transformed it into a learning experience.
Once you have a list of all of the potential experiences to discuss, choose the examples that will also demonstrate some of your personal qualities to the admissions committee. You have your career history submitted in your resume. Your GPA, transcript and GMAT will demonstrate academic ability. This essay is one of your few opportunities to show how you think, what your leadership approach is, and how you handle teamwork and conflict. Think about the situations that showcased your best performance at work, or that taught you something about your interests or future career goals.
Because you have only one essay question to present yourself, make sure you have a trusted reader to tell you if you are effectively communicating why you are going to be a strong leader who deserves a spot in the UVA Darden MBA class.
Looking for perspective in your approach to your Darden MBA application? Contact us to discuss how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help.