Also complicating the process, say consultants, was that some applicants wanted to devote an inordinate amount of time to one application and recycle the rest. “When it came to the essays, some clients wanted to focus so heavily on the HBS intro question first that they ran the risk of draining themselves emotionally and psychologically too early in the application process,” says Jason Bodewitz, founder of WyseGyde. “If they did this, they’d tend to focus more on the similarities between the essay prompts and try to recycle HBS essay material to fit multiple schools, when they should focus on the differences. It was important for us to remind our clients early on that the process is a marathon, not a sprint—of course, this is easier said than done. But anyone who applies to multiple schools needs to give each of the other programs their due time and attention in the essays.”
INSEAD, WITH ITS FOUR REQUIRED ESSAYS, MADE THE TOUGHEST LIST AS WELL
INSEAD, not surprisingly was also in the most challenging bucket. While most U.S. schools have significantly scaled back on their MBA essay requirements in recent years, INSEAD still requires four separate essays, with a total word limit of 1,500, though the school says it’s okay to go 10% over its suggested restrictions.
The school’s questions, moreover, are more thought-provoking than your typical run-on-the-mill essays. The first requires applicants to give ”a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary.” The second asks candidates to describe “the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others?”
Then, there’s the requirement to describe “an experience where you were significantly impacted by cultural diversity, in a positive or negative way.” And finally, INSEAD asks candidates to describe “all types of extra-professional activities in which you have been or are still involved for a significant amount of time (clubs, sports, music, arts, politics, etc.). How are you enriched by these activities?”
AND THE LEAST CHALLENGING MBA APPLICATIONS….
The least challenging, according to MBA admissions consultants? Half of the consultants responding to the survey said that Wharton’s MBA application fit that bill. It requires only one 500-word essay: “What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA?” In fact, of the five schools judged to have the easiest applications, four required applicants to answer only one essay question in 500 words or less (see below).
Slightly more than a third—35%— of the MBA admissions consultants said that Yale University’s School of Management and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business also were among the schools with the easiest applications this year. Tuck has two essay questions, requiring no more than 500 words each. Tuck asks candidates to name their short- and long-term goals, and than asks “Why do you need an MBA to achieve those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically?” In a second mandatory essay, Tuck asks applicants to describe their “most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. How will that experience contribute to the learning environment at Tuck?”
Meantime, Yale tosses out one simple 500-word-limit question: “Describe how you have positively influenced an organization as an employee, a member, or an outside constituent.” So does the University of Virginia’s Darden School and MIT Sloan. Asks Sloan: “Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have?” Asks Darden: “Describe the most important professional feedback you have received and how you responded to this feedback.”