Approaching The Diversity Essay Question

Learn How to Use Examples to Write an Exemplary Essay

Explain how your experiences built your character.

Many applications now have a question, sometimes optional, geared to encouraging people with minority backgrounds or unusual educational or family histories to write about their background.  If you are an immigrant to the US, the child of immigrants or someone whose ethnicity is a minority in the US, you might find this question an interesting one to show how your background will add to the mix of perspectives at the program you are applying to. If you are applying after having an unusual experience for applicants like joining the military, becoming part of a dance troupe, or caring for an elderly relative, you can use your experience to evoke the way in which you will bring diversity to campus.

Your family’s culture, situation and traditions, and the way they have helped you develop particular character and personality traits are of interest, as well unusual experiences that have shaped you. Perhaps you have grown up with a strong insistence on respecting elders, attending family events or learning your parents’ native language and culture. Perhaps you are close to grandparents and extended family who have taught you how teamwork can help everyone survive. Perhaps you have had to face and deal with difficulties that stem from your parents’ values being in conflict with those of your peers. Perhaps teachers have not always understood the elements of your culture or outside-of-school situation and how they pertain to your school performance. Perhaps you have suffered discrimination and formed your values and personality traits around your success in spite of the discrimination. Perhaps you have learned skills from a lifestyle that is outside the norm–living in foreign countries as the child of diplomats or contractors, performing professionally in theater, dance, music or sports, or communicating with a deaf sibling.

Understanding and explaining how your experience built your empathy for others, a strong will, and character is a good focus for the diversity question.

Learn how to use sample essays to create an exemplary essay of your own!Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

• The Quick Guide to Admissions Resumes [Free Guide]
Writing About Overcoming Obstacles in Your Application Essays [Short Video]
• How To Write About Overcoming Challenges Without Sounding Like A Whiner

Venture For America: Champion Of U.S. Entrepreneurship

Listen to the show!Entrepreneurship among 18 – 30 year olds in the USA is at a 24 year low, but the founder of Venture for America, is on a mission to spur economic growth through entrepreneurship.

Listen to our talk with Andrew Yang, Venture for America’s founder, for great insights into the state of entrepreneurship today, the case for why you should become an entrepreneur (and not a management consultant), and more.

00:02:14 – What is Venture for America?

00:04:20 – The story of how Venture for America came to be.

00:06:35 – How to create 100,000 jobs by 2025.

00:09:00 – Becoming a Venture for America fellow.

00:11:04 – What VFA Fellows do after boot camp.

00:14:27 – A look at where grads of the program end up.

00:19:20 – Chickpea pasta: A Venture for America success story.

00:22:18 – What inspired Andrew to write Smart People Should Build Things.

00:23:34 – Society aside, what is the benefit of becoming an entrepreneur to the individual.

00:28:45 – Do entrepreneurs need business school?

00:30:30 – Why the best and brightest should be kept out of consulting.

00:35:17 – Advice for making the transition from the corporate world to the start-up world.

00:37:20 – The definition of entrepreneurship and what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Click here to listen to the show!*Theme music is courtesy of

Related links:

• Venture for America
• Smart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America
Smart People Should Build Things: The Venture for America Podcast
• The MBA and Entrepreneurship
Which B-Schools Send the Most Grads into Entrepreneurship?

Related shows:

• Jon Medved & OurCrowd: The Remarkable Story of an Entrepreneur
• A Wharton Grad Rids the World of Bank Fees
• An HBS Entrepreneur Promoting Career Flexibility
• Entrepreneurship at UCLA Anderson
• Entrepreneurship at Stanford GSB: Carlypso Drives Down the Startup Street
• A B-School Professor on Main Street, USA
• MBAs Across America: Entrepreneurs with a Heart

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How To Write About Overcoming Challenges Without Sounding Like A Whiner

Download our Example to Exemplary guide today!

Just state the facts – they speak for themselves.

It’s a classic MBA essay question: Write about a time when you overcame a challenge. How did you handle it? What did you learn from the experience?

Let’s start by easing one worry you may have. Not everyone has faced a significant challenge at work by the time they apply for an MBA. If that is your situation, think of another significant challenge you have faced in another realm: a community or volunteer organization, the military, or perhaps even a difficult personal situation. It’s important that the challenge be something in the recent past – preferably within the last two or three years. If the challenge you write about is farther back than that, it will need to have that much greater impact or significance.

What makes a good “challenge” for the purpose of this essay? The possibilities are almost limitless, but here are a few strong examples:

•  “Joe’s” boss informed him he was going to fire “Freddy,” a new-hire Joe had been mentoring, for poor performance. Joe believed in Freddy’s technical skills, and felt Freddy’s shyness and lack of English fluency had hurt him. Joe took it upon himself to try to help save Freddy’s job. He convinced his boss to give Freddy another chance, and coached him after-hours, directed him to a language fluency program, and engaged in role playing to help Freddy gain confidence. Freddy began to thrive, kept his job, and became the go-to guy in his department for certain technical knowledge.

At no time did Joe complain about his boss or call him unreasonable or insensitive. At no time did Joe play the martyr, patting himself on the back about the extra steps he was taking to work with Freddy. He just stated the facts about what he did, which spoke for themselves.

•  Here’s another example. “Lori” joined a community service organization whose membership was plummeting. Lori believed in the organization’s goals, volunteered to spearhead a membership drive, which was successful, and then ran for president of the organization and won. Then, she worked to create more dynamic programming, a social media presence, and added appealing incentives for people joining or renewing membership.

Joe made a huge impact on one man, and by extension, an impact on his organization. Lori also was able to show direct and tangible impact on her group. Neither Joe nor Lori made themselves out to be heroes by describing their exhaustion because of long hours spent on their respective “projects.” They didn’t pat themselves on the back for the contributions they made. They simply stated the circumstances, why they believed in their mission, and related what they did to fix what was wrong around them. Presenting their stories in a “just the facts, Ma’m” manner make Lori and Joe sound like exciting management material: filled with vision, creativity, incentive, and energy. And it is succinct.

•  Let’s look at one final example. “Gary” had written a marketing plan to boost awareness and fundraising at the non-profit where he worked. His CEO at first approved his plan, then suddenly nixed it, replacing it with his own plan. Gary was sure the CEO’s plan was not viable. It lacked a marketing budget yet had lofty target goals for fundraising. The CEO gave Gary six months to achieve these goals.

Now that’s a challenge.

When Gary couldn’t get the CEO to reconsider, he appealed to others in the organization who had the CEO’s ear. Fortunately, they were willing to speak to the CEO, who then agreed to Gary’s original plan. Now, based on the first few examples we’ve seen, you will already have guessed that in this case, Gary did not complain about the CEO, call him short-sighted or stingy. He did offer some explanations for why the CEO might have seen the situation as he did, but nothing pejorative was written.

Gary’s workaround to his challenging situation showed boldness, initiative, and perseverance. At no time did he complain about the added workload of having to unravel this situation, or make himself sound like he had saved the day.

Let’s recap: A strong “challenge” example will allow you to show direct impact on either your organization or another individual. Ideally, it will be something that happened in the last two or three years, unless it was a monumental achievement. Finally, do not cast blame on others who may have helped create the problem/challenge in the first place, and do not sound like a martyr in describing the efforts (no matter how great) you made to get the job done. Simple, direct writing about the challenge will make it abundantly clear that you have the initiative, problem solving, communications, and organizational skills a good MBA program looks for.

Learn how to use sample essays to create an exemplary essay of your own! Judy Gruen By , MBA admissions consultant since 1996 and author (with Linda Abraham) of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Related Resources:

• The Quick Guide to Admissions Resumes
• Writing About Overcoming Obstacles in Your Application Essays
Selling Yourself Short?

MBA Admissions: Letters of Recommendation

Click here to download your copy of "Navigate the MBA Maze"!

The best letters of recommendation come from people who have seen you perform.

MBA Admissions: Letters of Recommendation” is the latest post in our series, Navigate the MBA Maze.

The best letters of recommendation come from people who have seen you perform. The weakest letters are of the “character reference” variety (from the clergy member who knows you only as a person who dozes during weekly services) or the VIP genre (from influential people like your mother’s college roommate’s sister, who is on an admissions committee). In both cases, the recommender barely knows you. A letter need not be lengthy to be effective, and the writer need not have known you since grade school. A letter from an immediate supervisor who describes your work and rates your performance as much stronger than that of other employees in similar positions, tells an admissions committee something significant about you.

It’s important to avoid repetition and duplication in your letters. “Only one recommendation per single source” is a good rule of thumb. Each letter should highlight a different facet of you and your accomplishments and, ideally, present you from a different vantage point. If you have a job in which you report to more than one person, don’t ask each person for a letter. Ask one of them and then ask another supervisor from a different project or a previous position.

Last but not least, request your letters in person whenever possible, and give each recommender a copy of your resume and your personal statement. Ask the person if s/he is able to write you a strong letter, and offer to provide any additional material the person requests.

Download your copy of Navigating the MBA Maze
Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

• Quick Guide to Admissions Resumes [Free Guide]
• MBA Letters Of Recommendation
• Recommenders And Recommendations

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Future Harvard Business School MBAs – Tune In On Tuesday!

You have just a couple days until our webinar, Get Accepted to Harvard Business School, airs live. If you plan on applying to Harvard Business School or another top-tier MBA program, then you’ll want to make sure you catch the important advice that Linda will cover in Get Accepted to Harvard Business School.


The webinar will take place Tuesday, June 23rd, at 5:00 PM/8:00 PM ET. [Please note: The June 24th 10:00 AM PT and the 5:00 PM PT sessions are now completely FULL.]

See you there!Save your spot at the webinar!Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy