MBA Application Essays Part 2 – Why Our School? and What Will You Contribute? Essays

In the first article in this series, MBA Prep School  discussed essay questions that had to do with your career progress and career goals. The next two questions we’ll discuss also dovetail with one another.  A “Why Our School?” essay question is a chance to tell the admissions committee what their program has to offer you.  The “Contributions Essay” is your opportunity to inform admissions officers what you will offer their class and community in return.

Why Our School? Essays

MBA admissions committees are very fond of asking you to tell them why you are applying to their school. MBA applicants are well aware of the stiff competition they face for admission to elite business schools, but they may not realize how hard MBA programs are competing to convince the best applicants to attend their schools. This is why an applicant’s answer to the Why Our School? question is a crucial way for admissions officers to separate the most engaged applicants from those who display only a superficial interest in attending their program. It follows that the quality of your answer to this essay question may have a significant bearing on your odds of being accepted.

Here are a couple of Why Our School? essay questions from the current application season:

Stanford Essay B: Why Stanford?

Wharton Essay 1: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA?

The “Why Our School?” question might be asked in a few other forms, including:

  • Why do you need an MBA from our program?
  • How do you think that our school can prepare you for your career goals?
  • How will our program enable your personal and professional growth?

The best answers to these types of questions are both personal and specific.  They are personal because they cover the unique challenges that you need to prepare for in the future. They are specific because they draw distinct connections between your motivations for an MBA and the particular resources that each business school has to offer you.

Answering the “Why Our School?” question requires thoughtful research and doing more legwork than your competition. Whereas other applicants browse the school’s website and think that’s sufficient, you must endeavor to understand each school on a deeper level. Before you begin your research, decide what you’re looking for in an MBA program and then figure out how the unique resources of each of your target schools check those boxes for you.

Contributions to the Class Essays

At the best business schools, there are always more qualified candidates vying for admission than there are seats in the class. As a result, the admissions committee awards the open seats to the candidates they believe will add the most to their MBA community.

Here is an example of a Contributions essay question from the current application season:

Wharton Essay 2: Describe an impactful experience or accomplishment that is not reflected elsewhere in your application. How will you use what you learned through that experience to contribute to the Wharton community?

You might see other forms of Contributions essay questions, such as:

  • What can you contribute to our program?
  • How can you enrich next year’s class?
  • How will your past experiences, values, and academic background be of value to your future classmates

The important thing to understand when preparing to answer these kinds of questions is that concrete answers about what you can contribute to the program are very important. The schools are looking for candidates who will put in just as much as they take out.

The key to scoring top marks is to be both concrete and specific. Too many candidates answer this question with vague generalities: “I’ll be a student leader” or “I can offer a diverse perspective.”  We don’t mean to imply that you can’t talk about softer skills or qualitative reasons. The point is that you must clarify how those attributes and your novel life experiences would be of benefit to your classmates. Don’t expect the admissions officers to do the heavy lifting to figure out what you can offer next year’s class; instead, tell them explicitly how you plan to contribute, and you will increase your chances of gaining a spot in their program.

In the next installment of MBA Prep School’s Essay Writing Boot Camp series, we’ll discuss three additional frequently-asked MBA essay questions that you may encounter during your MBA application campaign.

Learn from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and the other top MBAs how they wrote essays that got them in!


Tyler Cormney  is the co-founder of MBA Prep School, a full-service, boutique MBA admissions consulting firm that specializes in helping aspiring MBA candidates realize their dream of attending an elite business school. As a graduate of both Harvard Business School and USC’s Professional Writing Program, Tyler draws upon his unique blend of creative writing, strategic thinking, and coaching skills to help applicants stand out from the competition for a place in the most selective MBA programs, including Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton.

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