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How To Approach Short-Answer Essays

When it comes to the MBA short-answer essays, many applicants find word limits to be challenging.

Yet, experts say having tight word limits pushes applicants to effectively convey how they will contribute to an MBA class.

Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, recently spoke to some experts on how applicants can pack more punch into MBA short-answer essays.

“You really do have to think about what are the must-communicates versus the nice-to-communicates,” Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA admissions and program innovation at New York University’s Stern School of Business, tells US News.

NYU Stern’s “Pick Six”

One example of a short-answer essay prompt is NYU’s Stern, the “Pick Six” essay. The prompt asks applicants to use six images and corresponding captions to describe themselves to the admissions committee and future classmates.

According to NYU’s website, applicants upload a PDF that includes:

  • A brief introduction or overview of your “Pick Six”
  • Six images that help illustrate who you are
  • A one-sentence caption for each of the six images that helps explain why they were selected and are significant to you.

Keep True To Yourself

The key to answering these essay prompts is being authentic and highlighting individuality, experts say. It’s also an opportunity to convey a side of yourself outside of a transcript or resume.

For instance, Stern MBA student Sebastian Hooker took a photograph of himself exploring an ice cave for his “Pick Six” essay. His intent was to convey his appreciation of nature and “Work Hard, Play Hard” mentality.

Hooker, who grew up in Utah, tells US News that he wanted to make clear to NYU that if he were to attend school in NYC, he’d continue pursuing his outdoor hobbies—a core part of his identity.

“I’m not going to move to the concrete jungle and become a 100 percent city-driven person,” he tells US News.

Ben Strickhouser, an MBA student at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, says it’s important to stay true to yourself when writing short-answer essays.

“You want to be authentic in the way that you answer the question, so most likely the first thing that comes to mind whenever you read this question is what you want to put, and then you just need to spend a little bit of time to make sure that it’s put in an eloquent way,” Strickhouser tells US News.

Sources: US News, NYU Stern

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