In the LBS EMBA website landing page, a short introduction to the program includes the words “transform,” “transition,” and “catalyst.” Also, “accelerate” and “propel.” This is a clear message from the adcom: the program goes beyond conveying necessary skills for senior managers; it is for people who have a dynamic sense of their future and a willingness to change and grow, as well as to study and learn. Your essays should mirror and convey this dynamic sense, this energy, this vigor.
Question 1: How has the scope of your management experience affected your career objectives? (500 word max)
This is a goals question, albeit rather indirect. And the question itself reflects the dynamic perspective: rather than “what” your career goals are, it asks you to present them as a part of an ongoing process.
It’s an essay for which the most work might come before you write it – in the preliminary thinking process. Make it an exercise: FIRST, define your career objectives (short and longer term). SECOND, identify what factors influenced the development of those objectives. THIRD, of those factors, single out those related (directly and/or indirectly) to your management experience. Now, you’ve got the raw material for your essay.
In the actual essay, you could start with career objectives and work back to portray the related management experience – or vice versa. Either way, be specific in all aspects – make your goals concrete, and use anecdote and detail in describing the influential management experience.
Question 2: What was your response to a piece of feedback that you have received regarding an area of weakness? (500 words max)
The adcom wants to see how frankly you portray the feedback and your own shortcoming, and how insightfully you contextualize your experience. Secondarily, it’s about change –did you grow and change as a result of the feedback?
This essay will be most compelling and engaging if written as a story. Start right in with the story’s setting – where, who, when (ideally make it a fairly recent experience, and one that holds some meaningful stakes). Then progress through the story, highlighting not just what you and the other party said and did, but also your thinking as the story progresses. Finally, give a short example of how you have applied this feedback (or your learning from this feedback experience) subsequently – in other words, how you grew.
Question 3 (500 words max): Please choose ONE essay from the following two options:
If you could choose any three people who have ever lived to join you for dinner, who would you invite and why?
If you were on the cover of any publication in 10 years, what would the headline and the content of the article be?
If the first two questions are rooted in real-world, concrete experience, this question urges you to “play” a little and use your imagination, wit, creativity, and possibly broader passions in answering.
Which should you answer? Both are equally good; it depends on which serves your needs and interest best.
There are various viable and effective approaches to this essay. One is “gut instinct” and personal appeal. I.e., if one of these questions strikes a chord with you, engages you, and you have an idea that you like, probably it will be an effective essay. Go with it! BUT, do apply some objective, focused analysis as well. Ensure that your content truly illuminates you in some new and fresh way relevant to the application, and do use detail and example to make your essay credible and vivid.
Another approach is strategic. If your imagination isn’t tickled by these questions, instead analyze and plan. What relevant and interesting aspects of your profile aren’t yet portrayed (or portrayed adequately) in the application? Identify one or two such points, and work back from that to find suitable topics for one of the two questions. BUT: don’t be too heavy handed with the essay, which wouldn’t align with the question’s tone.
• If you choose the first question, please don’t use very obvious or overly angelic people (I’ve seen this essay answered with Gandhi and Mother Teresa more often than I can believe over 15 years.) Rather, discuss people who show your creative thinking and/or are personally meaning to you.
• If you choose the second question, don’t turn the essay into a second goals essay. Ensure that it extends the portrayal of you in some way.
For September 2015 and January 2016 start: Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis within 2 weeks of receipt. A final decision will come 6 to 8 weeks after submission.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, co-author of The EMBA Edge, and author of the free special report, Ace the EMBA. Cindy has helped MBA applicants get accepted to top EMBA programs around the world. She is delighted to help you too!