Lady Gaga On This MBA Essay?

by John A. Byrne on

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga’s “I Was Born This Way?” Or Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart?” Or maybe some other catchy tune?

With all the changes in MBA application essays this year, you knew it had to happen sooner or later.

UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business is now asking applicants to choose one song that “expresses who you are” and why you picked the tune. “Pick a song that is meaningful to you—it doesn’t have to be popular, in English, or even have lyrics,” says Stephanie Fujii, director of full-time MBA admissions at Haas, in a post on her admissions blog.

The new 250-word question replaces an essay that had asked applications to name their greatest joy. Explains Fujii, “Why are we asking this question? It’s not a test.  We hope your answer will reveal something about what makes you who you are. A piece of advice — your song doesn’t have to be a popular or well-known song, or even a song with lyrics — pick the song that has meaning for you and make sure we understand why.  Last year a number of applicants over-thought the joy question instead of answering from the heart. This year, we’re trying something new.”

The school also reduced the number of required essays in its full-time MBA application and slashed the maximum words required in the essays by a full third to 1,500 words from last year’s 2,250. Haas cut last year’s five 250-word maximum questions to just three and reducing its long two-part response question by 250 words to a maximum of 750 from 1,000.

The novel question comes amidst massive changes in MBA application essays this year. The upheaval began in May when Harvard Business School cut the number of its required essays in half and added a post-interview reflective email to the mix. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School followed by introducing a novel team-based discussion requirement for applicants who pass the first application review hurdle.

Some of the application alternations are quite novel. Columbia Business School is requiring applicants to view a three-minute promotional video on school community and then write up to 250 words on the film. Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, for example, is asking applicants to create a numbered list of the top “25 random things about yourself.” The school is telling MBA candidates that they can share important life experiences, likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps the school’s admissions staff understand what makes “you who you are.”

“It must go in phases,” says Betsy Massar, of Master Admissions, a consulting firm.. “Schools are trying to outdo themselves with individuality questions.”

The complete set of this year’s questions for Haas:

If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 word maximum)

What is your most significant accomplishment? (250 word maximum)

Describe a time when you questioned an established practice or thought within an organization. How did your actions create positive change? (250 word maximum)

Describe a time when you were a student of your own failure. What specific insight from this experience has shaped your development? (250 word maximum)

a. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How have your professional experiences prepared you to achieve these goals? 
b. How will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals? (750 word maximum for 5a. and 5b.)

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