If you are applying to business school this fall, you may be wondering when to get started with your MBA essays. While the 2022-2023 MBA applications are not yet open, Personal MBA Coach advises applicants to move forward with caution now on their essays for many top MBA programs.
Based on our experience and observations over the past 15 years, we predict many schools will leave some or all of their essay questions unchanged—mostly because they get very good results—while some will tweak. Finally, a small group of schools may go back to the drawing board and change things up.
Listed here more or less according to ranking privilege, the following business schools fall into three categories: schools that Personal MBA Coach expects will leave at least one of their major essays questions the same; schools that Personal MBA Coach believes will likely make small changes in the essays; and schools for which there is a risk that the MBA questions could change.
Harvard Business School: Start writing: Unlikely to change
HBS’s 2021-2022 MBA essay question was: As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program?
This open-ended question gives ample opportunity for candidates to sparkle, so we think you can proceed with confidence.
Stanford GSB: Start writing: Unlikely to change
GSB’s essays last year were: Essay A: What matters most to you, and why? And Essay B: Why Stanford?
Together they offer an opportunity both to talk about yourself and to show why you are a good fit for the school. We think these will stay as they are.
Chicago Booth: Start on 1, hold off on 2
Booth’s 2021-2022 first MBA essay question was: How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (Minimum 250 words, no maximum)
This is a straight goals essay, and we do not think this will change. Essay 2 (about growth outside of the office) may or may not change, so we advise that you hold off writing this essay for now.
Wharton: Start on 1, hold off on 2
Wharton has kept its first MBA essay question largely the same for the past few years, and we expect the same this year: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)
Essay 2 (about what you will contribute to the community) may or may not change. We advise candidates to hold off on this essay until we know more.
Kellogg: Start on 1, hold off on 2
Last year Kellogg essay 1 was: Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip and inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn? (450 words)
We do not think this essay will change.
However, essay 2 (about your values) may or may not change. Sit tight here as well.
Columbia Business School: Start on 1 and 2 only
Last year’s first essay question was: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)
That essay worked hand-in-hand with one of the options for the second essay: Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words). Those MBA essays—one a straight professional statement essay and the other an opportunity to show your knowledge of CBS for a good match—offer a complete candidate mosaic, and we do not foresee changes.
MIT Sloan: Tweaks possible, major changes unlikely
In past years, MIT has asked for one letter-essay demonstrating how each MBA candidate meets the school’s criteria for excellence. We do not expect major changes, so you can start thinking about what you bring to the table.
Yale SOM: Brainstorm only
While there is a strong chance that Yale will again ask applicants to: “Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words maximum)” a change is possible here. For this reason, we recommend that candidates brainstorm only.
Berkeley Haas: Brainstorm only
For its “What makes you feel alive when you are doing it?” and its leadership traits essays, a change is less likely but still a possibility. Once again, brainstorm only.
Michigan Ross: Hold off
In addition to a short goals essay, Ross previously required two multiple-choice prompts. We advise that you hold off on your Ross essays in case there is a change.
Dartmouth Tuck: Hold off
Last year Tuck asked for three shorter essays: one about goals, one about contributions to Tuck, and one on exemplifying empathy or collaboration. For now, let’s wait and see.
Duke Fuqua: Tweaks possible, major changes unlikely
Fuqua had three MBA essay components last year—the two major ones are a contributions essay and a famous “25 Random Things About You.” We do not expect major shifts, so you can start brainstorming and drafting (and the 25 random things require some brainstorming!).
NYU Stern: Hold off
Last year Stern repeated its popular “Pick Six” while adding a new essay on change. While it is less likely to drop the “Pick Six,” NYU Stern remains on our “hold off for now” list.
UVA Darden: Hold off
In the past, Darden has requested a series of shorter essays that together make up a candidate portrait: Last year, one was on meaningful impact and one on inclusion and diversity. Let’s hold off on these for possible changes.
London Business School: Tweaks possible, major changes unlikely
LBS’s straightforward goals statement essay is unlikely to change.
UCLA Anderson: Hold off
Anderson is another school that asks for several shorter essays, including one on the impact of recent events. We suggest holding off.
Of course, these are predictions based on our knowledge of the schools and our past experience. As soon as this year’s MBA application essay questions are released, Personal MBA Coach will let you know what has changed and will share advice on how to tackle each MBA essay question.
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About Personal MBA Coach:
Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 15 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2 by leading sources including Poets & Quants.
We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing, and mock interviews. Our team includes former M7 admissions directors and former M7 admissions interviewers.
Scott Edinburgh is a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan BS graduate and founded Personal MBA Coach 15 years ago with the goal of providing customized one-on-one support. Scott also serves on the Board of Directors for AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and is invited to speak at MBA Admissions events globally. Our clients have been accepted to all top schools globally with a 96% success rate. They received $6.5M+ in scholarships last cycle.