You’ll have no trouble finding advice on how to write an MBA goals essay or a leadership essay – these are the typical MBA essays that most people expect in an application package. But what if you get a wild card? Creative or off-beat questions tend to trip up applicants and there’s not much info out there on how to tackle them well.
Here are a few examples of wild card questions that have been found on b-school applications: “Answer a question you wish we’d asked.” “If you could invite anyone to dinner, living or dead, who would be and why?” “You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. Please write the table of contents for the book.”
You get the idea.
Admissions committees ask these sorts of questions because they are digging for information about you as an individual. Sure stats are important, as are goals and leadership skills. But the answers to these questions reveal a side of you that the professional/statistical/academic answers hide. These questions provide the adcom readers with a window into who you really are – your interests, your passions, your values, your character, and your quirks.
So how do should you respond?
First, there are no right or wrong answers, but there are compelling, unique answers as well as boring, unoriginal ones.
Here are some tips for steering clear of the dull:
- Never answer a “whom would you like to meet” question with Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, or President Obama. William Shakespeare and Plato though dead, are equally unoriginal.
- For the question “Where would you want to spend one day?” don’t go on and on about the city where your target b-school is located. Booooring.
The best way to answer a creative question is to write an authentic answer. A few tips:
- Offer your reader a clear window into You. Discuss personal items or thoughts with honesty. If your most valuable possession is a friendship bracelet that your best friend gave you in second grade, then write a little about the bracelet and more about why it’s important – who was this person and why do you today still wear this piece of string?
- Be specific. For your “where in the world” question, don’t just talk about how you’d like to sightsee in New York City; instead, choose one or two things you’d like to do during your day in the Big Apple – like visiting a Bronx soup kitchen or playing leapfrog in Central Park’s Strawberry Field.
- Have fun, but don’t be silly or phony. Use details and a dash of creativity to paint a picture that answers the questions.
By Linda Abraham, CEO and founder of Accepted.com 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. This is the tenth and final article in a series on Perfecting Your MBA Essays.
Our Series On Perfecting Your MBA Essays:
- Part I: Smart Note Taking for Smart MBA Essays
- Part II: Essay Advice: If You’re Reapplying…
- Part III: Three Essential Keys to the Goals Essay
- Part IV: Why Do You Want an MBA Now?
- Part V: Leadership Essays: Tell, Show, Explain
- Part VI: The Optional Essay: Use It or Lose It
- Part VII: Essays: Responding to Criticism
- Part VIII: How To Approach the Short MBA Essays
- Part IX: How to Write About Weakness