The Best MBA Apps Have a Cohesive Narrative

cohesive narrative

When applying for an elite MBA program, it’s vital to make your application stand out from the crowd. But, the admissions committee is looking for more than impressive resumes and high GMAT scores. They want to get to know you, understand your motivations, and see how you’ll contribute to their program. One of the most effective ways to differentiate yourself is by crafting a compelling and cohesive narrative. After all, your MBA application is more than a collection of documents; it’s your story, journey, and vision for the future. Let’s walk through the process of weaving your own personal and professional journey into a captivating tale that admissions committees can’t resist.

What are your chances of getting into a top business school? Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant.

A Cohesive Narrative Starts with Self-Reflection

Your MBA application package should read like a captivating story with a beginning, middle, and end. It should:

  • Engage the reader from the start
  • Build tension as you describe challenges or obstacles
  • Conclude with a sense of resolution and purpose

Too many applicants shy away from sharing personal anecdotes for fear of appearing unprofessional in their applications. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the admissions team at UVA Darden School of Business recently stressed, “Remember that your story encompasses your full life — not just your academic and professional achievements. Believe it or not, applicants often overlook their personal story when crafting their narrative.”

To create a cohesive narrative, you need to have a clear understanding of your own story. What experiences have shaped you? What are your values, passions, and goals? Think about pivotal life moments and how they’ve influenced your desire to pursue an MBA. Share anecdotes and experiences that make you unique. You may have traveled the world for work, started a side hustle, or overcome a significant obstacle. Use these stories to show your resilience, adaptability, and problem-solving skills.

cohesive narrative

A ‘Novel’ Approach

“I think of these application elements like chapters in a book,” SBC consultant Chandler Arnold explains on a recent B-Schooled podcast. “While you want each chapter to be compelling in its own, stand-alone way, your main goal is for these different pieces to function together as an overall narrative about you.”

Listen to B-Schooled Podcast #175: Clear, Consistent, Cohesive MBA Applications

Your narrative should also convey a sense of purpose. The AdCom wants to see that you clearly know what you want to achieve with an MBA. Do you aspire to lead a tech startup, manage a non-profit organization, or climb the corporate ladder? Your goals should be specific, realistic, and aligned with your past experiences and future ambitions. The application reader should be immediately able to connect the dots between your past, present, and future.

Show how your current skill set and experiences have prepared you for the challenges of business school and your future career. At the same time, AdComs appreciate candidates who are self-aware and open to growth. Be honest about your weaknesses and share how you see their program helping you fill those gaps. Highlight specific aspects of the program that align with your goals and values. Explain why this school is the ideal place to pursue your MBA degree.

Emphasize Soft Skills

While technical skills and achievements are necessary, remember to emphasize your soft skills, too. Leadership, teamwork, communication, and empathy are key traits of successful MBA candidates. Share stories that showcase your ability to work well with others and your emotional intelligence.

It can be tempting to embellish your achievements or write what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. Don’t do it! Authenticity is critical. Be yourself, and let your true personality shine through in your writing. Admissions committees can spot insincerity from a mile away.

The more your unique and authentic narrative comes through the application materials, the more you will stand out from other applicants.-UVA Darden School of Business

Edit and Seek Feedback

Once you’ve written your narrative, don’t hit submit immediately. Take the time to edit and refine your essay. Check for typos and grammatical errors, which can detract from your message and professionalism. Read it aloud to ensure it flows smoothly. Most importantly, seek feedback from trusted friends, family members, or an admissions consultant who can provide valuable insights and suggestions.

While telling your story thoroughly is essential, be mindful of word limits. Admissions committees appreciate candidates who can express themselves concisely. Remove any unnecessary details or redundancies and ensure every word serves a purpose.

best MBA

Crafting a cohesive narrative for your MBA application is a critical step in the admissions process. It’s your opportunity to showcase your unique experiences, skills, and aspirations in a way that resonates with the admissions committee.

So, take the time to reflect on your journey, set clear goals, and be authentic in your writing. With careful planning and a well-crafted narrative, you increase your chances of securing a spot in your dream MBA program.


Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your needs, from our All-In Partnership to test prep to hourly help with targeted tasks. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team:

best mba

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Harvard HBS, Wharton and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Anthony, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

Meet Andrea, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions Marketing at Harvard Business School (HBS) for over five years.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.


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