MBA Essays: How To Write About Weakness

To wrap up our series on major application essay topics, here are a few thoughts on the weakness essay. I bet it’s your favorite!

You, like everyone else, doesn’t like to write about (or think about) your flaws, especially when you are striving to present a desirable portrait of yourself. But if that’s what the application asks for, then just as with the criticism question, that is what you must provide. In fact, by answering the weakness question thoughtfully, you’ll be adding to your desirability, not detracting from it.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Be honest. Don’t try and make up a flaw that’s really a positive attribute in a shallow, transparent attempt to look good. Skip the “I’m a sucker for detail” flaw – being detail-oriented is a good thing. The same thing goes for “I work too hard” – a strong work ethic is good. As long as OCD isn’t involved, don’t pretend otherwise.
  2. Remain personally focused and take responsibility. Don’t discuss the blemishes of other people as a way to minimize yours or transfer responsibility AKA blame.
  3. Write about traits that are relevant to management. For example, a weakness for chocolate is…a weakness indeed, but it’s not directly relevant to business school or your career.
  4. Finally, discuss how you’ve addressed your weakness. The only way to turn talking about your weaknesses into a strength is to talk about the steps you’ve taken to address the defect. If your quant skills are weak, have you enrolled in courses that will boost them (statistics, accounting, etc.). If you had difficulties delegating when you first became a manager, discuss how you learned to delegate more effectively and tell about a more recent managerial experience where your led an effective, efficient team.
  5. Try to choose a weakness from a few years ago and from an arena of your life not discussed in other essays. Doing so allows you to reveal another side of you and also gives you more opportunity to show growth.

All human beings have weaknesses. The ones who succeed are aware of them and work to minimize them. Use this essay to show that you belong to this group of winners.

By Linda Abraham, CEO and founder of and co-author of the soon-to released book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Linda has been helping MBA applicants gain acceptance to top MBA programs since 1994.

Our Series On Perfecting Your MBA Essays: