Most graduate business programs require applicants to submit at least one MBA essay as part of the application process. Admissions committees use essays, along with other application components, to determine whether or not you are a good fit for their business school. A well-written MBA essay can increase your chances of acceptance and help you stand out among other applicants.
Choosing an MBA Essay Topic
In most cases, you will be assigned a topic or instructed to answer a specific question.
However, there are some schools that allow you to choose a topic or select from a short list of provided topics.
If you are given the opportunity to choose your own MBA essay topic, you should make strategic choices that allow you to highlight your best qualities. This may include an essay that demonstrates your leadership ability, an essay that showcases your ability to overcome obstacles, or an essay that clearly defines your career goals.
Chances are, you will be asked to submit multiple essays – usually two or three. You may also have the opportunity to submit an “optional essay.” Optional essays are usually guideline and topic free, which means you can write about anything you want. Find out when to use the optional essay.
Whatever topic you choose, be sure to come up with stories that support the topic or answer a specific question. Your MBA essay should be focused and feature you as the central player.
Common MBA Essay Topics
Remember, most business schools will provide you with a topic to write on. Although topics can vary from school to school, there are a few common topics/questions that can be found on many business school applications. They include:
- Why attend this business school?
- What are your career goals?
- What are your short-term and long-term goals?
- What will you do with your degree?
- How will a degree help you achieve your goals?
- Why do you want an MBA?
- What matters to you most and why?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What is your biggest accomplishment?
- What is your biggest regret?
- How have you failed in the past?
- How do you respond to adversity?
- What challenges have you overcome?
- Who do you admire most and why?
- Who are you?
- How will you contribute to this program?
- Why do you have leadership potential?
- How do you explain weaknesses in your academic record?
Answer the Question
One of the biggest mistakes that MBA applicants make is not answering the question they are asked. If you are asked about your professional goals, then professional goals – not personal goals – should be the focus of the essay. If you are asked about your failures, you should discuss mistakes you have made and lessons you have learned – not accomplishments or success.
Stick to the topic and avoid beating around the bush. Your essay should be direct and pointed from start to finish. It should also focus on you. Remember, an MBA essay is meant to introduce you to the admissions committee. You should be the main character of the story.
It is okay to describe admiring someone else, learning from someone else, or helping someone else, but these mentions should support the story of you – not cover it up.
See another MBA essay mistake to avoid.
Basic Essay Tips
As with any essay assignment, you’ll want to carefully follow any instructions you are given. Again, answer the question assigned to you – keep it focused and concise. It is also important to pay attention to word counts. If you are asked for a 500-word essay, you should aim for 500 words, rather than 400 or 600. Make every word count.
Your essay should also be readable and grammatically correct. The entire paper should be free of errors. Do not use special paper or a crazy font. Keep it simple and professional. Above all, give yourself enough time to write your MBA essays.
You don’t want to have to slop through them and turn in something that’s less than your best work simply because you had to meet a deadline.
See a list of essay style tips.
More Essay Writing Tips
- Take time to reflect on yourself, your goals, your accomplishments, your strengths, your weaknesses, etc. before you begin writing your essay.
- Research the school until you have a good understanding of the school’s mission, culture, programs, and approach.
- Create an outline to organize your ideas before you start writing.
- Use anecdotes and personal stories to make your essay original.
- Don’t be too academic – an MBA essay isn’t a term paper. It is a marketing packet designed to introduce you.
- Be specific and detailed. Use examples. Support your statements.
- Keep it real. You want to impress, but honesty is key.
- Don’t be afraid to be creative. If you’re asked where you see yourself five years from now, you can avoid the standard answer and write a diary entry for that day in the future or pretend that you’re telling your children about your first job after grad school.
- Make your essay interesting. Some admissions reps read more than 1,000 essays answering the same question. Hook them with the intro and keep them interested throughout to make your essay stand out among everyone else’s.
Remember that the #1 rule when writing an MBA essay is to answer the question/stay on topic. When you have finished your essay, ask at least two people to proofread it and guess the topic or question you were trying to answer. If they do not guess correctly, you should revisit the essay and adjust the focus until your proofreaders can easily tell what the essay is supposed to be about.