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Most Common MBA Essay Questions: Here’s How To Tackle Them

MBA admissions essays play an integral role in your application. A strong essay can very much sway an admissions team to give your application the green light, experts say.

“Compelling essays, recommendations, and interviews can provide context for a low GMAT score or GPA,” Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, writes. “But the reverse is not true. Strong numbers will never make up for weak essays or a disorganized, negative recommendation.”

Most admissions officers like to see essays that are personalized for the business school where you’re applying. And while essay prompts will change year to year, they tend to cover the same general questions. The experts at Top MBA recently discusses a few common MBA admissions essay questions and how applicants can address them effectively.

WHY AN MBA?

One of the most common admissions essay questions asks applicants why they want to pursue an MBA. The goal with these essay prompts, experts say, is to talk about your past, present, and future.

“You need to shape your ‘why an MBA’ answer carefully according to whether the question asks more about your past: ‘What has led you to want an MBA?’ or about your future: ‘What will you do when you graduate? How will an MBA help you?’” according to Top MBA.

Connecting the dots between your past, present, and future to the target B-school is the key to hitting this type of essay questions head on.

“You need to show how the MBA is the bridge between your yesterday and your tomorrow,” according to Top MBA. “Past, present and future can be presented in any order, but you must paint a picture of a future that rests naturally on what you have done before, plus the MBA from the school to which you are applying.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM FAILURE?

Another common admissions essay question asks applicants about their weaknesses and failure. Experts say it’s not so much as to what the failure was that’s important, but how it taught you valuable lessons.

“Everyone has weaknesses and has failed. What is in doubt is how you responded, what insight into yourself you gained and how you grew from there,” according to Top MBA. “What they are testing, above all, is whether you have the self-insight to locate and admit to your mess-up, and the seniority to talk maturely about it.”

WHAT’S YOUR MOST MEANINGFUL LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE?

Many business schools will ask you to describe how your leadership experience translates onto campus. The key to these essay prompts is to demonstrate how you’re an effective leader.

“Just having experience in a leadership position doesn’t necessarily mean you were good at it,” according to Top MBA. “You have to show them you understand what good is. You also need to demonstrate an explicit understanding of your own personal leadership style – how you influence, motivate, sanction, inspire others to achieve, and so on – and the preferences that underpin your approach. In all leadership analyses, you should show respect for the difficulties of leadership. If you think leadership is easy, you have never really led.”

Sources: Top MBA, Stacy Blackman Consulting 

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