UCLA Anderson | Mr. SME Consulting
GMAT 740, GPA 3.55 (as per WES paid service)
Kellogg | Mr. Concrete Angel
GRE 318, GPA 3.33
Chicago Booth | Mr. Unilever To MBB
GRE 308, GPA 3.8
Chicago Booth | Mr. Healthcare PM
GMAT 730, GPA 2.8
INSEAD | Mr. Product Manager
GMAT 740, GPA 63%
Kellogg | Ms. Sustainable Development
GRE N/A, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Finance
GMAT 750, GPA 3.0
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Wharton | Mr. Future Non-Profit
GMAT 720, GPA 8/10
Harvard | Mr. Military Quant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare PE
GRE 340, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Ms. Female Sales Leader
GMAT 740 (target), GPA 3.45
Harvard | Mr. Renewables Athlete
GMAT 710 (1st take), GPA 3.63
Kellogg | Ms. Big4 M&A
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Army Aviator
GRE 314, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Ms. Gay Techie
GRE 332, GPA 3.88
INSEAD | Mr. INSEAD Aspirant
GRE 322, GPA 3.5
Chicago Booth | Ms. Indian Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 9.18/10
MIT Sloan | Ms. Rocket Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Army Engineer
GRE 326, GPA 3.89
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Salesman
GMAT 700, GPA 3.0
Tuck | Mr. Liberal Arts Military
GMAT 680, GPA 2.9
Columbia | Mr. Energy Italian
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Quality Assurance
GMAT 770, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. African Energy
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
NYU Stern | Ms. Luxury Retail
GMAT 730, GPA 2.5
Stanford GSB | Ms. Russland Native
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5

The Most Annoying MBA Essays Of 2014



Bauer has similar length issues with this year’s application from the Stern School of Business at New York University. Stern is asking applications to choose one of two options for its second essay question with a 500-word maximum.

Option A: The mission of the Stern School of Business is to develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society. Given today’s ever-changing global landscape, Stern seeks and develops leaders who thrive in ambiguity, embrace a broad perspective and think creatively about the range of ways they can have impact.

Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding?

What factors will most determine which path you will take?

How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern?

Option B:

Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.

Bauer says that option A requires the applicant to envision not just one long-term career goal, but two. “That’s quite a stretch compared to other schools that ask for only one goal, if any,” he says. “Stern also expects the applicant to speculate on opportunities and threats for each of those goals. And finally, the candidate must relate each of the career paths to NYU’s altruistic, wide-ranging mission. All of this introspection and clairvoyance in only 500 words?

“If NYU wants a clear, concise picture of the applicant’s priorities, values and self-awareness, it would have made more sense to focus on just one career goal,” Bauer adds. “That’s enough conjecture for any candidate. Bottom line: most applicants should go with the far more controllable Option B since that provides a blank canvas for defining and presenting their past, present and future.


Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted.com, finds fault with one aspect of this year’s application from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. “While overall Fuqua’s app is really strong and I love the 25 things question, I don’t like Duke’s Option 1 for Essay 2,” she says.

The offending prompt: When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them?

Believes Abraham: “Implicit in that question is the assumption that applicants will now tell the admissions committee information that they wouldn’t otherwise because the prompt reads ‘When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues, … what do you tell them?’ It’s either demeaning to the applicants or naive on Duke’s part to assume that because of the additional language the answer will be more candid than the response to a simple ‘Why do you want to go to Duke?’

If an applicant isn’t going to be candid or open in responding, that extra verbiage won’t change anything and what’s the point of the whole essay writing exercise? If applicants are going to be open and candid, they don’t need that additional wording. Anyway, that’s my pet peeve of a question for this year. I guess that extra wording fits in the pointless category.”


Asked to name his least favorite question, Adam Hoff of Amerasia Consulting says that after MIT’s “utterly ridiculous” recommendation question it’s the second essay question posed by the Kellogg School of Management. “That probably seems a little unfair and I admit that it’s nothing too egregious, but the questions that bother me the most are the ones that overly direct a good answer, because it takes a significant opportunity away from an applicant able and willing to really be introspective and thoughtful,” he says.

“In the past, Kellogg asked for two leadership experiences and allowed them to come from either professional or personal experiences and to be about really any type of leadership. Asking it that way allowed people to A) draw from all kinds of different situations, and B) have to decide for themselves how they viewed leadership and what they valued in a leader. Now Kellogg requires a professional example (I know this is to balance the very personal Essay 1, so I get it, but it’s still a bummer) and they overly direct the type of leadership by asking for an instance of “collaboration” and “influencing people.”

“Now pretty much all candidates are going to know you can’t just tell a story about bossing people around, leading by pure example, or giving a grand speech, when before only the ones most in touch with Kellogg’s relational, empathetic leadership approach were going to successfully arrive at the proper stories. If I had to guess, we will not see this version of a Kellogg leadership question again next year, because I am betting they got thousands of essays that sound pretty much exactly the same and their readers are probably miserable.”


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.