“Choosing Topics For The B-School Essay” is the latest post in our series, Navigate the MBA Maze.
In your applications, the schools are attempting to get to know you through your essays. So what should you write about? Write about what is most important to you and distinctive about you. The admissions readers seek to uncover how you will contribute to their class, their program, and the diversity of their schools. By telling your story – not what you think they want to hear and not what you share with 50% of other applicants—you will reveal how you can uniquely add to their class.
For applications asking you to respond to specific questions and requesting statements of purpose, you have to first and foremost answer the question being asked. Frequently when reviewing application essays and personal statements, I read the essay first and then the question. If I can answer the question based on the essay I just read, it passes the first check. If the question asks you to discuss a failure, somewhere in that essay you must discuss a time when you really blew it. And then explore what you learned, and if appropriate, a nice dose of how you successfully handled a similar subsequent situation. But the starting point has to be an answer to the question posed.
If the question asks why you want to attend a given program, you need to provide specifics about that program that relate to your interests and goals. Don’t respond with an answer that could apply to all programs in your field. That is a non-answer, non-starter, and probable ding. Don’t tell them why you are more qualified than anyone else to attend their program. Just answer the question.
What if it’s an open-ended question with just general instructions? Then follow the general instructions and enjoy the luxury of writing about what interests you and best presents your qualifications.
When applying to business school, perform the following check before you submit your essays to an admissions committee reader:
1. Make sure your essay answers the question.
2. Make sure it answers the question as well as you can.
3. Make sure it is a coherent, articulate demonstration of your writing ability.