Unlike most top US schools, which have trended toward fewer essays, HEC Paris maintains an impressive five required questions, from the practical ‘why HEC Paris’/why now’ to the provocative, ‘Imagine a life entirely different from the one you now lead, what would it be?’ Thankfully, most are short answer questions (250-word max), and taken together, they offer valuable storytelling opportunities.
I’ve captured what HEC is looking for in your MBA essays, along with tips for tackling the first, longer-form essay question. In what’s predicted to be the most competitive season ever, your essay is the critical element that can convey your uniqueness and distinguish your profile in a sea of excellence.
HOW TO TACKLE THE HEC ESSAYS
As an HEC alum and MBA admissions coach, I can affirm that the key to standing out to the Admissions Committee is to be creative, authentic, and to show you have a clear plan for your future career. HEC asks unique questions in its essays, and it’s important to make sure you answer all parts of the question. Think about what each question is really trying to learn about you, and how your answer might distinguish you from your high achieving peers. You’ll want to articulate your uniqueness strongly across your application, along with how a global vision for your future will both benefit from and contribute to the alumni network of HEC.
Essay One: Why are you applying to the HEC MBA Program now? What is the professional objective that will guide your career choice after your MBA, and how will the HEC MBA contribute to the achievement of this objective? (500 words max)
HEC wants to see ambitious career aspirations and backgrounds. You’ll want to focus on how HEC’s international scope, deep academic rigor, program structure, and access to a worldwide network connects with your goals and aspirations. You are selling your future vision as much as your current skills, GMAT scores, and accomplishments, so it’s essential to know how your career goals intersect with the school’s values and link them across your narrative about your reasons for pursuing the MBA.
To start, reflect on why this is the exact time that you need to earn an MBA in your career trajectory and explain the rationale and how you came to that decision. What will an MBA at this point enable you to do, and why is HEC the program that makes the most sense for you? Make sure you articulate how the HEC program is different, and how that difference fits specifically with your own career plans and goals.
Think about how your life and career will look if everything goes the way you plan, and how that will also be of value to the school. Do you plan on starting your own company one day? Do you want to lead change in the way we source energy? Do you have a passion for using technology to solve a previously intractable problem? All of these are great stories about your future, and they become even better when you tie them to the specific characteristics of the school and how the program will help you get to that goal. You will also want to think about how you will achieve your career in steps: the MBA, the few years after the MBA, 10 years out, and more. Be realistic about the kind of role and company/organization you intend to join just after the MBA, and do your research about what those employers want in a candidate. The more you can show you have aligned your career vision with practical, realistic steps to get there, including the HEC MBA, the better your essays will read.
Tips for writing:
- Start out with a story or example to hook the attention of your reader
- Start with what you are passionate about (that links to career goals)
- Describe your career goals post MBA and why now is the right time to get an MBA
- Conclude with research on why HEC – courses, connections/partnerships, professors, treks, clubs etc. related to your goals
- It’s okay to also touch on long term aspirations in terms of how the MBA and short term goals will be your stepping stones to your long term goal
For more insights and advice, view my related blog for tips on how to tackle all six HEC essays & prepare for the HEC video presentation.
You can view our most recent August 19 strategy session on HEC Paris, London Business School & INSEAD as part of Fortuna’s MBA Admissions Masterclasses, a series featuring essay strategies from 14 former gatekeepers on 14 of the world’s top b-schools.
Brendan Kramp is an expert coach at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions, who earned an MBA from HEC and previously served as the UK Director of Development for INSEAD. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.