How to Structure Your MBA Essays

structure your MBA essays

A lot of people think they are not great storytellers. It’s true that some of us come by it more naturally than others. But with the proper structure and mindset, anybody can become a great storyteller. That’s why we’re diving deep into how to structure your MBA essays to tell your unique story. Remember, the AdCom member reading your materials only has about 15-20 minutes to form an impression of your candidacy. You don’t want them to merely like your application when they finish reading it.

“What you really want to be is the applicant they’re thinking about as they drive home that night, as they’re chatting with their spouse over spaghetti that evening,” explains SBC consultant and B-Schooled host Chandler Arnold. He recently sat down with fellow SBC consultant Kevin Rockmael to discuss essay writing strategy.

A few decades ago, business schools focused far more on applicants’ quantitative or technical skills when making admissions decisions. While your ability to handle the rigors of an MBA program is still a significant consideration, your emotional intelligence counts for an outsized amount these days. The so-called “soft skills” surrounding communication, the ability to motivate others, and leadership are attractive qualities to the admissions committee.

structure your MBA essays

Chandler says that if you can demonstrate those soft skills in your essays, the AdCom is much more likely to take a chance on you. “Because they know that not only will you be successful… but more importantly, when you graduate, you’ll have a larger impact on companies. And that’s ultimately what these business schools are trying to accomplish.”

Your goal when drafting those essays is to make sure your stories are believable and authentic, SBC consultant Kevin explains. Does it seem real? Is your motivation clear? And perhaps most important, do you seem like someone the admissions committee is rooting for?

Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to hourly help reviewing your MBA essays. Contact us today for a free 15-minute consult to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.

How to Structure Your MBA Essays to Win Over the AdCom

This is one of the topics SBC consultants get asked about the most. “I believe that structure is really the key part of the essay,” says Chandler. “So once you create that North Star, I think the second part is creating the structure, and then it’s actually filling in the sentences and then doing a lot of iteration to make sure that it all fits together.”

Some MBA applicants bristle at the idea, thinking that structure equals formulaic or that it will stunt their creativity. But we would urge you to flip that frame. Instead, think of structure as something that allows you to be more creative and compelling. When a reader senses there’s some structure to the material, it will enable them to relax and enjoy themselves as they read your essay.

 The best essays are a balanced combination of a lot of different things. You’ll see personal stories. You’ll see specific accomplishments and experiences. You’ll get insights into what people have learned and how they’ve grown.

Here are the four main components SBC consultant Kevin advises you to consider as you structure your MBA essays.

Your Opening. What big problem have you seen or experienced that you want to solve?

Your Background. Talk about your background and the obstacles you have faced and learned from. 

Your Goal + Your Experience. What is missing from your background and experience? How will business school help you reach your long-term goals? Here is where you connect your dreams to the MBA program you’re interested in attending.

Conclusion. The last part of the essay is a wrap-up of the problem you discussed at the beginning and how you addressed it. Finally, explain how you will create a better world to solve that problem. 

B-Schooled co-host/Harvard MBA Erika Olson wants you to remember those three magic words of good storytelling: show, don’t tell. 

@stacyblackmanconsulting #sbcyourfuture #mba #bschool #bschooladmissions #businessschool #essays #writing #writingtips ? Sexy Chill Vibes (Background Trap Hip Hop Beat) – rehegoosync

The Power of the Circle

Another way to think about how to structure your MBA essays is to harken back to your favorite high school English teacher. Remember those standard five-paragraph essays? It may seem overly simplistic, but sometimes those simple things are the most powerful, Chandler notes.

  • Paragraph 1: Start with an attention-grabbing first sentence or a personal anecdote. This surprises your reader and sets them up for the rest of your story.
  • Paragraphs 2-4: Each could share one specific point supporting your argument. Maybe it’s a lesson you learn from college, your first job, etc. Use the STAR format to highlight your results and what you learned.
  • Paragraph 5: Your conclusion harkens back to how you opened your essay. “I think there is a real power in kind of bringing things full circle,” Chandler says.

We often advise applicants to make a checklist of the key elements they want to cover in their entire application package.

  • Are there personal stories?
  • What about accomplishments?
  • Have you done significant self-reflection?
  • Did you highlight your leadership experience?
  • Is there enough about grit and perseverance?

Find a trusted friend, colleague, or family member to read through your materials. Ask them to identify the major themes or takeaways they get from your entire package. You’ll learn a few things. Have you covered everything? Does it seem balanced? Or are you heavy in one particular direction? And if you are, then it’s time to fix it. You want to ensure that you’re building a package that tells your unique story. It should showcase you as a complete human and differentiate you from others within the application pool.

Get ready to put in the work.

Author Stephen King once said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” The hardest part is starting. And after that, everything gets easier. Best of luck on your MBA adventures; we can’t wait to read what you create.


Want some help drafting a killer MBA essay? We’ve got you! Request a free MBA advising session with Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help with your complete MBA applications. Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.



Let us help you achieve your MBA dreams. Contact us for a free consultation to request time with an SBC Principal.


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