Tuesday Tips: Kenan-Flagler Application Essay Tips for 2023-2024

Kenan-Flagler application

The UNC Kenan-Flagler application essay questions focus on learning more about you. At UNC, a world-class university offers resources beyond the MBA program. The Research Triangle region is home to global corporations as well as startups, small and midsized firms, and nonprofits. In Raleigh alone, you’ll find more than 500 startups spanning sectors such as software, automated marketing, life sciences, consumer packaged goods, media/design, and IoT device manufacturers.

There are several global immersion opportunities with each program at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Also, students love the environment in Chapel Hill; it’s a beautiful and lively college town. Celebrated for its temperate climate, flourishing foodie scene, and friendly locals, the Triangle offers UNC MBA students a vibrant atmosphere without the urban grind.

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

UNC Kenan-Flagler Application Essays

From the admissions committee: You’ll respond to two required essay questions and one optional question. Your responses should be concise, clear, and introspective, as we’ll use them to learn more about you, your motivations, and your aspirations.

Required Essay 1

Your response should be no longer than 500 words and should address the following questions:

What are your immediate career goals and how will you benefit from earning an MBA at Kenan-Flagler Business School?

As the business world continues to evolve, circumstances can change and guide you in a different direction. Should the goals that you provided above not transpire, what other opportunities would you explore?

This first essay in the Kenan-Flagler application asks a primary career goals question and a “Plan B.” Knowing yourself is the best first step in this essay. What has your career taught you, both in hard skills and soft skills? How have leadership opportunities grown your perspective? Think about the experiences of your work life. And what you have learned about yourself.

Then, describe your short-term career goals. As a program, UNC provides individual career guidance and has a recruiter focus. Therefore, realistic career goals help the admissions committee imagine you at UNC. Finally, show a clear link between your career goals and your MBA. What skills will you gain from classes and clubs to bring to your post-MBA job?

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School essay questions

Everyone’s life takes twists and turns. And, often, your path takes you in another direction. For that reason, this essay also asks about your Plan B. To answer the question, consider how your experience and MBA can apply to different goals.

For example, your Plan A is to work in consulting and then transition to a strategy role at a CPG firm. If you cannot land that job, you could look for in-house strategy roles to gain experience. Or, you could work in a different kind of professional services firm, such as marketing research. Finally, as long as you focus on the type of work that appeals to you and the roles that fit, you will find the right path.

See this Q&A with Kenan-Flagler’s Senior Assoc. Dean of MBA Programs

Required Essay 2

Your response should be no longer than 500 words and should address the following question:

Reflect on a project or initiative you were involved in that had a significant positive impact on a community, organization, or individual. How did this experience shape your sense of responsibility as a future leader dedicated to making a difference in the world?

Like most schools, UNC Kenan-Flagler focuses on inclusive leadership and impact leadership, specifically making a difference in the world. Thoughtful and nuanced leadership is vital to your UNC MBA application. That means showing that you are empathetic and understanding. Even if you are not a leader now, you can positively impact those around you. For this essay, you are asked to describe a time when you had that positive impact on a community, an organization or an individual.

Consider using the STAR method for this essay. In the STAR method, you will first describe the Situation, which is the background to the story. Think about where you were working and volunteering, and with what group of people or individuals. Then, you will describe the Task. Think about the Task as the goal you were trying to accomplish. The third part is the Action you took. Here you should be specific about what you thought, said, and did in the situation. Finally, the Result. What happened, and how did everyone feel about it?

Finally, this essay asks you to reflect upon the experience and how it has shaped your sense of responsibility as a future leader. Consider the impact you had and how you felt about it. Ideally, you have already demonstrated a desire to make a difference, and you have the basic ability to do so.

You will also learn more about leadership in your MBA program, and you could write about some of those leadership skills you plan to hone in this essay. As always, be specific and identify programs and professors you are excited to learn from.

Optional Essay

We encourage you to tell us more about who you are so we can get to know you as a person and potential member of the Carolina community. Use this essay to convey information that you may not have otherwise been able to in the application. Your response should be no longer than 200 words.

Optional topics:

  • Personal or professional accomplishments
  • Interests and passions
  • Gaps in work experience or inconsistent academic performance
  • Context for recommender selection
  • A fun fact about yourself

This Kenan-Flagler optional application allows you to discuss either areas of concern or personal topics.

First, identify any gaps in your overall application. Then, consider if you need to explain those gaps. For example, if you do not have the required classes listed, you may have learned the same topics at work. Or consider registering for continuing education classes. Finally, substantial work experience can help offset poor academics. Or, explain that you have taken courses since undergrad and received high grades.

If you do not have any significant resume or application gaps, you can use this essay to focus on a personal topic. Consider describing a noteworthy professional accomplishment. Or, explain a personal achievement of which you are proud. If you tell a personal story, use specific examples to make the story stand out. Consider why the accomplishment was remarkable and what you learned from the experience.

Reapplicant Essay

If you are re-applying to the program, we appreciate your continued interest in UNC Kenan-Flagler. We require a complete application in addition to a brief essay (100 words or less) that describes how your application differs from your previous submission and that alerts us to new test scores, a recent promotion, or other areas that demonstrate how you have strengthened your candidacy.

The Kenan-Flagler application requires re-applicants to complete all of the required essays. You should take 100 words to describe what has changed since your last application. Also, ideas for this essay include updates like a promotion or a new job.

If you don’t have a resume change, consider updates like a change in career focus. Or, you may have learned new skills in other ways, such as in a stretch project at work. Overall, this is your chance to show you are a stronger candidate now than last year.

Finally, to learn more about the Kenan-Flagler UNC MBA program, please visit the school website.


Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application 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. Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.

If you have an interview coming up, you will want to review SBC’s interview prep services. The key to interview success is practice and we provide you with all the tools you need to do just that.

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