Now that you have set your eyes on the ‘right’ schools, you should not waste even a single moment…leap onto the bandwagon of essay-writers! One of the biggest deciding factors in the entire Application Game is the ‘Application Essay’.

Jeez, what is an ‘essay’…?

Each school abroad, no matter how big or how small, places a lot of emphasis on the admission essays. Your undergrad and GMAT scores are all indicative of what you are but the admission officers are more interested in know ‘who’ you are, beyond those numbers and designations. They want to know the person within you; know about your goals, passions, values, dreams etc. They evaluate you amongst the thousands of others who have applied along with you. They are interested in knowing how unique you are and how the community will benefit by having you around.

In the 3000 – 6000 odd people who apply to each business school, there are number of engineers, accountants and consultants. But each person will have had different experiences and hence write different stories. The essays provide an opportunity to the prospective student to talk to the admission officers and narrate his/her story in a natural & passionate way. Lot of things are noted in your essays viz. your writing style, art of communicating, maturity, future career goals, understanding of the MBA program, team-working style etc. Essays are the windows which allow the admission officers to peek into your lifestyle; charm it up and impress them so much that they will want to see the ‘complete you’ in their business school.

 It is very important for you to understand that the admission committee which reviews your application is comprised of normal human beings and not some robotic mechanisms and hence, learn to revere the time and energy that your application gets. It is definitely a daunting task to read through thousands of essays and assess the individuals mentally. Thus, be a little considerate on the reader and write some nice, charming stories about yourself. These stories should not only be captivating but also remain distinctly in the minds of the reader, long after he/she has moved onto the next application. Having read through innumerable number of essays, the admission officers can easily pick out the phony ones from the genuine ones. On a broad scale, the officers look out for leadership potential, intellectual ability, career focus and personal characteristics. You need to portray all of these in a concise manner. Your essays should ideally give life to your résumé. If you are not used to writing, I suggest you take up this as a hobby and improve your writing skills on top priority. Plan well ahead as you wouldn’t believe the number of drafts you need to shred before you are ready to dispatch the final set of essays to the B-School. Catch hold of the people who can be your faithful editors and coax them into submission. ?

The essay questions of most of the business schools more or less run around the same regions. The below discussed questions are just indicative and by no means, exhaustive.

  • Why MBA? Why now? And why at ‘Z’ B-school? – This is one of the most common questions asked everywhere. Here the school is interested in your career progression till date and why you feel an MBA is the right thing for you. Also they are interested in knowing as to why you are particularly interested in their program. – This is one of the critical essays and you need to be extremely cautious when you sketch out your career ambitions. An MBA could be for a number of reasons like to gain a general management perspective or take upon more leadership roles in an organization but your essay should lucidly chalk out your career and give some realistic future plans. An easy way to work through this essay would be talking about your current responsibilities and where you intend to go from here and thus how an MBA acts as a bridge between your current and future profiles.

  • Discuss your substantial accomplishments – This question can be worded in innumerable ways and hence you might need to be ready with a set of personal and professional accomplishments. Also these accomplishments look big enough only when you can describe the obstacles you had to overcome in the process. Be true to yourself and don’t blow your trumpet too hard. At the same time, you won’t be gaining anything by being too modest. So, balance your ideas well as the school will be looking closely as to what you consider an ‘accomplishment’ to be.

  • One example for leadership trait and one for team-working – Both these attributes will be asked at some point or the other. If it is not, make it a point to elaborate about these in a couple of your essays. Schools consider both these traits to be highly critical for your success as a business leader in your future career. You might have to discuss some of the team failures and/or team victories and how you were an influential part of it.

  • Strengths and weaknesses – It is a fair world after all and it will look highly improbable if you write that you have absolutely no weaknesses. While noting down the strengths may be an easy task, weaknesses might cause some undue stress. ‘Over-confidence’ may not look so great a weakness! Ponder about these and use colorful illustrations to elaborate on these characteristics.


    Apart from these standard questions, you might have to write in depth about your creative abilities, ethical dilemmas you have faced, personal values, defining moments etc. And then you have the ‘optional’ essay which foxes many a candidate. Many B-Schools give you a chance to write almost anything under the sun in the form of an optional essay. Beware – Don’t abuse this option. This is not the place to talk about the big increment you got or the 10 pounds you dropped off. Rather think of this essay as the last option to pull up your act and put forward your case in front of the Admission guys. You can safely discuss your bad undergrad performance or a low GMAT score or your choice of recommenders or something that covers up a big dent in your application package. I reiterate, do not use this essay to prove that you are the next Nobel prize winner!

     Here are some of the Dos & Don’ts on your Admission essays:

    1. Don’t write what you think the Admissions would like to read. That would be a complete turn-off and your application won’t even receive a cursory glance. Instead, do put across your passions and interests sincerely and show that you really want to study at ‘that’ B-School.

    2. Don’t tell the admissions guys that you are sick of ‘coding’ and hence want to get out. However true this might be, it will look shoddy. Business schools worldwide look out for potential leaders and don’t give them a chance to think of you as anything else.

    3. Don’t emotionalize your essays. You might have had your share of miseries and bad strokes of luck but this is not the place to display them.

    4. Do try to balance your essays with both professional and personal stories. Ensure that you brainstorm each of the essay question before you decide to pen it down.

    5. Do try to show the Ad-com that you will not only gain a lot from their MBA program but will also contribute significantly to the building of their community.

    6. Don’t draw your career path as something that just happened. Show how you have carefully planned and taken upon initiatives as a normal, intelligent human being.

    7. Don’t use a common draft for all your schools. Though the stories might merge for some of the essays, ensure that you rewrite most of it. Using one common essay for similar sounding questions will be a complete disaster!

    8. Don’t try to portray some of your strengths as your weaknesses viz. ‘I work too hard’… it might backfire!

    9. Don’t be modest. It is your only chance (assuming that you wont reapply again!) to show a top school that you are good enough to make it into their MBA program. Be confident – don’t undermine yourself! Don’t show that you are a run-of-the-mill candidate! 10. Don’t use the optional essay if you have completely bolstered your case in the remaining essays.

    Happy Essaying!

    About the authoress:

    The authoress, Sowmya aka Simba is one of the moderators of PaGaLGuY forum. She is currently working with a leading telecom provider in Mumbai, India and apart from being a regular volunteer of MLCS group; she has diverse interests in various activities that are beyond the scope of this small introduction. Having seen the admission process with interviews et al for 2 continuous years and being successful in getting admitted into 5 and a ½ schools out of 7 schools. She is now heading to the Duke University , Fuqua School of Business and she is enthused to help others go through the maze of applying and getting accepted by schools abroad.

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