Overused MBA Essay Topics To Avoid

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Stacy Blacklman, founder of Stacy Blackman ConsultingMY BIGGEST WEAKNESS IS BEING A PERFECTIONIST.”

  • MY BIGGEST WEAKNESS IS BEING A PERFECTIONIST.” False modesty will get you nowhere and can make for a really boring read. Remember, the admissions committee has thousands of application essays to read. At minimum, your goal should be to keep them awake. No boss has ever fired an employee for “being too perfect” and anyone who uses this essay topic knows full well they’re dodging the question and replacing it with a humble-brag.  Two strikes against you for: 1) writing a boring essay and 2) not answering the question.  See, not that perfect after all.
  • “I WANT TO GO INTO CONSULTING AND THEN LAUNCH A “START-UP.”  MBA’s who want to launch start-ups are about as common as actors in Hollywood.  It’s not that it’s a bad goal, but what exactly is a “start-up”?  Show the admissions committee specifically how you will use the knowledge gained in business school, instead of generically sharing a dream that makes you seem a-dime-a-dozen, when you are anything but.
  • “I EXPERIENCED GREAT CULTURE SHOCK MOVING TO THE US AND HAD TO LEARN ENGLISH.”  Chances are you are not the first person to experience culture shock in coming to another country. And if learning a new language is the most defining/difficult moment to date, you’ve led a pretty good life. The goal of an MBA essay is to share your own personal uniqueness and help the reader get to know you better. Everyone can relate to feeling like a fish out of water.  So how did that experience help shape the person that you are, and the leader you will become? Now, we’re interested.
  • “I SPENT THE LAST 3 YEARS WORKING AS A PART OF A TEAM DEVELOPING XYZ AND WE CAME IN ON TIME AND UNDER BUDGET.”  Great, so what do you need business school for?  Instead of making yourself sound like the world’s most successful CEO, how ‘bout talking about what you took away from the experience and how business school can only help you become the kind of leader you were inspired by while working there.
  • “HELPING OTHERS IS WHAT MATTERS MOST TO ME.”  That’s lovely, but if that is really what drives you, you will need a track record to back it up.  Of course, great leaders do help others, but you don’t need to be a mogul to do this.  Tell what you have done so far and how an MBA can help more – and we’ll want to read more.
  • “I WANT TO GO TO YOUR SCHOOL BECAUSE OF THE PHENOMENAL CURRICULUM, DIVERSE STUDENT BODY AND ACCESS TO TOP NOTCH PROFESSORS.” Yes, you and everybody else. Don’t waste the word count of your essay by giving information that is assumed. If you didn’t think the curriculum phenomenal and the professors top notch, you wouldn’t be applying.  So give them some insight into what you add to the school and be very specific about what you can take away.
  • “MY GREATEST STRENGTH IS MY LEADERSHIP SKILLS.”  A perfect example of “Show, don’t tell.” By choosing a more unique and specific essay topic, the reader should come away thinking, “What a great leader.” It’s much more interesting for you to show us, through your own experiences, rather than tell us what we can read on your resume. Admissions officers are looking for well-rounded future leaders.  This is your chance to show them how you are just that.

Remember, your application is in a pile amongst thousands.  Use your application essay as an opportunity to share who you are. The reader wants to know what’s special about you and how you made the choices you did to get to where you are now. The essay is your chance!

This is the fourth post in a new series: B-School Admissions Tips You Can’t Live Without

Week One: Be a Heat-Seeking Missile

Week Two: Top Application Mistakes 

Week Three: Don’t Be A Delusional MBA Candidate

An MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a BS from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Stacy Blackman founded Stacy Blackman Consulting in 2001 and has helped thousands of MBA applicants gain admission to the most selective business schools in the world. The Stacy Blackman team, comprised of MBA graduates, former admissions officers and expert writers, editors and marketers, helps clients develop and implement a winning marketing strategy. 


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