The Most Important Qualities To Feature In Your MBA Application Essays

Your primary objective in writing your MBA application essays is to provide evidence that proves you possess the qualities that admissions committees value most. Doing so will bring you one step closer to earning an acceptance letter.  In this article, MBA Prep School  will introduce and describe the qualities that successful MBA candidates feature in their essays. The qualities MBA programs prize above others include:

  • Leadership
  • Collaborative Style
  • Integrity
  • Analytical Intelligence
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Creativity
  • Community Spirit
  • Global Awareness
  • Self-Awareness

All nine of these qualities appeal to MBA admissions officers. Nonetheless, it’s not possible to emphasize every single one of these traits to the same degree. That’s where designing an application strategy comes into play.

One of the most important aspects of designing an effective application strategy is deciding on the subset of qualities and strengths you are going to highlight in your applications. Your decision hinges on the collection of evidence and examples available for you to draw upon to exemplify your most prominent traits and abilities.

While reading the following definitions of the qualities we listed, start to consider which ones you can best exemplify in your application materials. Later, you will want to be certain of your shortlist of qualities, so that you can evaluate the drafts you’ve written and your MBA application as a whole in order to ask yourself whether or not you have managed to highlight the qualities you decided to feature in your application strategy.

It’s no secret that MBA programs are seeking to admit future leaders. That’s why leadership tops our list of the qualities that MBA programs value most.

1. Leadership

Most MBA candidates realize that convincing the admissions office that they are leaders is of the utmost importance. What’s less clear to them is how to do so. Too many applicants end up devoting most of their essay word count—and application real estate as a whole—to sharing individual achievements rather than leadership accomplishments.

In fact, it can sometimes be tricky to distinguish between an individual accomplishment story and a leadership story. The best way to tell the difference is that a leadership achievement represents a result or outcome that you couldn’t and didn’t reach solely on your own. Leadership is about achieving your goals by harnessing the energy and ideas of other people.

2. Collaborative Style

A person who has a collaborative style is a team player who works well with others and puts the good of the group ahead of his or her self-interest. Business schools want to see that you are going to contribute to the success of your classmates and their learning and growth. This trait is the opposite of being selfish or self-serving.

3. Integrity

Integrity has to do with honesty, ethics, and morals – it centers on your sense of right and wrong.  MBA admissions officers are interested in your character. Have you built trust with others and kept the promises you have made to yourself and to other people?

4. Analytical Intelligence

Analytical intelligence has to do with your ability to run the numbers, solve quantitative problems, identify patterns in information, and make data-driven decisions.

5. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence has been a hot topic over the last decade. You might also refer to it as “interpersonal intelligence.” This quality has to do with your aptitude for understanding other people’s feelings and your capacity as a leader for tapping into emotion to inspire your followers to realize a high degree of success.

6. Creativity

Creativity, or creative intelligence, relates to your ability to cope with new situations by synthesizing prior knowledge and skills in a novel way. It also means seeing the world in your own unique way and having the ability to design and develop something that hasn’t existed before.

7. Community Spirit

Being community-minded means that you devote energy to serving your communities and strengthening them. Your community service accomplishments provide admissions officers with an important signal that you are a giver, not a taker. Remember, business schools are looking for students who will contribute just as much as they take away.

8. Global Awareness

A person who is globally aware typically has had life experiences that extend beyond his or her home country. When writing your MBA application essays, look for ways to emphasize your cross-cultural and international experiences. Ideally, the career goals you share in your Career Goals essay will also demonstrate a global scope.

9. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness relates to your capacity to objectively assess your strengths and weaknesses, learn from your mistakes, and grow beyond prior limitations. In many ways, the entire MBA application process is a massive test of your self-knowledge. To succeed, you need to understand yourself and communicate what you are about to a third party (i.e., the admissions officers).


If you’ve read this article closely and started to reflect on a subset of the above qualities that you can best exemplify in your application essays, then you are one step closer to writing powerful application essays.

With a clear understanding of the types of essay questions you’re going to face during the MBA application process and a better handle on the qualities you need to showcase in your application essays, you are now prepared to begin the essay brainstorming process. In the next article in MBA Prep School’s Essay Writing Bootcamp series, we share a step-by-step process for choosing your most powerful topics and stories.

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.

MORE FROM MBA PREP SCHOOL’S SERIES: Part 1: Career Progress And Goals Essays,  Part 2: Why Our School And What Will You Contribute Essays, Part 3: Leadership, Past Decisions, And Setback Essays

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