US South Carolina

Recently viewed courses

Recently viewed.

Find Your Dream School

This site uses various technologies, as described in our Privacy Policy, for personalization, measuring website use/performance, and targeted advertising, which may include storing and sharing information about your site visit with third parties. By continuing to use this website you consent to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use .

   COVID-19 Update: To help students through this crisis, The Princeton Review will continue our "Enroll with Confidence" refund policies. For full details, please click here.

20 Must-Read MBA Essay Tips

Business essay tips

Business school admissions committees care about more than (just) your  GMAT scores and GPA —they want to know who you are and why you belong in their program . Your MBA essays are your best chance to sell the person behind the résumé. They should tie all the pieces of your business school application together and create a comprehensive picture of who you are, what you've done, and what you bring to the table.  Here's a roundup of our best MBA essay tips to keep in mind as you begin to write.

How to Write an Unforgettable B-School Essay

1. communicate that you are a proactive, can-do sort of person..

Business schools want leaders, not applicants content with following the herd.

2. Put yourself on ego-alert.

Stress what makes you unique, not what makes you number one.

3. Communicate specific reasons why you're great fit for each school.

Simply stating "I am the ideal candidate for your program" won't convince the admission committee to push you into the admit pile.

Read More: Find Your Business School

4. Bring passion to your writing.

Admissions officers want to know what excites you. And if you'll bring a similar enthusiasm to the classroom.

5. Break the mold.

Challenge perceptions with unexpected essays that say, "There's more to me than you think."

6. If you've taken an unorthodox path to business school, play it up.

Admissions officers appreciate risk-takers.

7. Talk about your gender, ethnicity, minority status or foreign background....

But only if it has affected your outlook or experiences.

8. Fill your essays with plenty of real-life examples.

Specific anecdotes and vivid details make a much greater impact than general claims and broad summaries.

9. Demonstrate a sense of humor or vulnerability.

You're a real person, and it's okay to show it!

BONUS: Don't Make These MBA Essay Mistakes

1. write about your high school glory days. .

Admissions committees don't care if you were editor of the yearbook or captain of the varsity team. They expect their candidates to have moved onto more current, professional achievements.

2. Submit essays that don't answer the questions.

An off-topic essay, or one that merely restates your résumé, will frustrate and bore the admissions committee. More importantly, it won't lead to any new insight about you.

Attend UNC's top-ranked online MBA program without putting your career on hold. See how.

3. Fill essays with industry jargon.

Construct your essays with only enough detail about your job to frame your story and make your point.

4. Reveal half-baked reasons for wanting the MBA.

Admissions officers favor applicants who have well-defined goals. However unsure you are about your future, it's critical that you demonstrate that you have a plan.

5. Exceed the recommended word limits.

This suggests you don't know how to follow directions, operate within constraints or organize your thoughts.

6. Submit an application full of typos and grammatical errors.

A sloppy application suggests a sloppy attitude.

7. Send one school an essay intended for another—or forget to change the school name when using the same essay for several applications.

Admissions committees are (understandably) insulted when they see another school's name or forms.

8. Make excuses.

If your undergraduate experience was one long party, be honest. Discuss how you've matured, both personally and professionally.

9. Be impersonal in the personal statement.

Many applicants avoid the personal like the plague. Instead of talking about how putting themselves through school lowered their GPA, they talk about the rising cost of tuition in America. Admissions officers want to know about YOU.

Read More: How to Ace Your MBA Interview

10. Make too many generalizations.

An essay full of generalizations is a giveaway that you don't have anything to say.

11. Write in a vacuum.

Make sure that each of your essays reinforce and build on the others to present a consistent and compelling representation of who you are, what you've done, and what you bring to the table.

Practice for the GMAT

Take a GMAT practice test with us under the same conditions as the real thing. You'll get a personalized score report highlighting your strengths and areas of improvement.

START A FREE PRACTICE TEST

  • Business School  

Featured Business Schools For You

Find MBA Programs Matched to Your Interests

Explore our featured business schools to find those that are looking for students like you.

Best Online MBA seal

Top Online MBA Programs

On a mission to increase your salary? Our Top 50 Online MBA ranking is based on academics, career outcomes, tech platforms, and more.

Best Career Prospects

Best Career Prospects

Find out which schools have the best track records for getting students jobs—and the highest starting salaries.

Top Entrepreneurship 2023 seal

Top Schools for Entrepreneurship

Ready to build your own business from the ground up? Check out these 50 graduate programs.

What would you score on the MCAT today?

Thank you! Look for the MCAT Review Guide in your inbox.

I already know my score.

Enrollment Advisor

1-800-2REVIEW (800-273-8439) ext. 1

1-877-LEARN-30

Mon-Fri 9AM-10PM ET

Sat-Sun 9AM-8PM ET

Student Support

1-800-2REVIEW (800-273-8439) ext. 2

Mon-Fri 9AM-9PM ET

Sat-Sun 8:30AM-5PM ET

Partnerships

  • Teach or Tutor for Us

College Readiness

International

Advertising

Affiliate/Other

  • Enrollment Terms & Conditions
  • Accessibility
  • Cigna Medical Transparency in Coverage

Register Book

Local Offices: Mon-Fri 9AM-6PM

  • SAT Subject Tests

Academic Subjects

  • Social Studies

Find the Right College

  • College Rankings
  • College Advice
  • Applying to College
  • Financial Aid

School & District Partnerships

  • Professional Development
  • Advice Articles
  • Private Tutoring
  • Mobile Apps
  • Local Offices
  • International Offices
  • Work for Us
  • Affiliate Program
  • Partner with Us
  • Advertise with Us
  • International Partnerships
  • Our Guarantees
  • Accessibility – Canada

Privacy Policy | CA Privacy Notice | Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information | Your Opt-Out Rights | Terms of Use | Site Map

©2024 TPR Education IP Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved. The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University

TPR Education, LLC (doing business as “The Princeton Review”) is controlled by Primavera Holdings Limited, a firm owned by Chinese nationals with a principal place of business in Hong Kong, China.

Rafal Reyzer

  • 80+ AI Tools

20 Great MBA Application Essay Samples (With Links)

Author: Rafal Reyzer

Want to ace your MBA application? A stellar essay can be your golden ticket.

With elite business schools like Harvard and Stanford boasting acceptance rates as low as 10% and 6% respectively, every aspect of your application counts. While GPA and GMAT scores matter, your essay can be a game-changer. Recognizing its weight, we’ve gathered top-notch MBA essay samples, endorsed by admission committees from premier institutions. Dive in and let’s craft that standout application!

What is an MBA Application Essay?

An MBA application essay is a detailed write-up about your personal and professional goals and aspirations. It also explains how the MBA program will help you attain your objectives for the future. Your essay is your one shot to convince the admission committee to consider you for the initial interview.

professor reading an essay of MBA applicant

What Admission Committee Look for in an MBA Essay?

  • Academic ability
  • Impressive work experience
  • Career Course
  • Authenticity of goals
  • Competencies, leadership , dedication, challenges, and growth
  • The right reason for pursuing an MBA
  • Your compatibility with the culture in which the program is being offered

If you want to learn more, here is the complete guide on how admission committees process MBA applications.

20 Great MBA Applications Essays Samples

Now you have known that what makes a great MBA admission essay, the next step is to write one for yourself. Before writing, check out this list of expert-vetted MBA application essays that secured admissions to top-rated business schools in the world. Admission consultants have shared these samples and they can be helpful if you read and analyze them carefully. If you’re completely unsure about how to get started, there are also custom essay writing services that can help you structure your essay with the help of professional editors.

Sample 1: Leadership-focused MBA application essay

This sample is particularly focused on leadership traits. If your essay is about explaining your leadership quality experience, this sample is right up your alley. The best thing about the essay is that it is written in a simple, engaging, and humorous style. It defines a great experience in a very conversational style.

demonstrating leadership quality

Sample 2: Self-focused MBA application essay 

If you are asked to write about your strengths, weaknesses, aims, and goals in your application essay, this sample will help you. The applicant who wrote this got accepted to the INSEAD business school. It doesn’t merely describe her strengths and weaknesses, but it presents a complete picture of herself as a person. It highlighted the events and incidents that shaped her personality.

Sample 3: Life-hardships-focused MBA application essay

If you want to explain your life’s hardships and the events that turned you into an ambitious person, this sample is for you. In this application essay, the candidate has defined three phases of his life and how he survived through each adversity. He beautifully explained why the MBA program is important to his future.

Sample 4: Continuous growth and learning-focused MBA application essay

This essay was submitted to Harvard Business School. The best thing about this piece is that the writer has explained her learning and professional development journey in a very sequential and engaging manner, which is truly admirable. A useful thing to remember about the MBA essays included in this list is that you can merge them into a single printable and perfectly formatted file with Sodapdf or another PDF editor. Having all of them stored in a single PDF is going to be quite helpful when it’s time to write your piece. But guess what? There are more examples to explore below, so let’s keep going…

Sample 5: Best MBA application essay for low scorers

Have a low GPA? What would you write about academics in an MBA essay to convince the admission committee? Do not overthink! MBA essay is not all about high achievements and sterling background. It is also an opportunity to atone for your past mistakes. This MBA essay was written by a student who obtained very low academic grades, yet got admitted to her desired business school. Her turning point? A powerful application essay.

guitarist with a dream

Sample 6: A guitarist’s application essay for the MBA program

Suppose you are ambitious in a skill or profession that has nothing to do with the MBA program, yet you need the degree for certain reasons. How would you showcase that irrelevant skill in your MBA application essay? This sample essay will show how you how. A guitarist who got selected for the MBA program wrote this one. The applicant has intelligently defined his passion for guitar as a way of developing discipline, determination, leadership, and success. He explained how his passion affected his academics and how the guitar helped him cope with the challenges.

Sample 7: An engineer’s essay for MBA application

If you come from a technical or engineering background and have the ambition to pursue an MBA degree to boost your engineering career, this sample essay will help pave the way for you. This essay was submitted by a mechanical engineer to Harvard Business School. The writer explained how his engineering experience motivated him to pursue an MBA and how the program is important to his long-term goals.

harvard university

Sample 8: Harvard Business School MBA essay

This essay was written by a candidate who got accepted to Harvard Business School. Check it out to know what the prestigious academic institution looks for in your essay.

Sample 9: Wharton Business School MBA essay

This essay has been honored as one of the best MBA essays ever received by the Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania. Check out the structure, organization, and flow, and adapt the same to your essay.

Sample 10: Columbia Business School MBA essay

The Columbia Business School’s admission committee shared this MBA essay. They explained why the applicant who wrote this was instantly accepted to the program and why they appreciated its content.

Sample 11: Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA essay

This essay was written by a candidate who got accepted to Stanford Business School for an MBA. If you are aiming to get your MBA at Stanford, this sample will give you a deep understanding of what convinces the esteemed school’s admission committee to accept applicants into their fold.

Sample 12: University of California Business School MBA essay

This sample was taken from a pool of successful MBA application essays submitted to the University of California business school. Read it carefully and analyze its structure, words, and substance before you compose your own fantastic MBA essay.

aerial photo of oxford university

Sample 13: University of OXFORD business school MBA essay

If Oxford Business School is your target destiny for earning your MBA, then check out this outstanding application essay. The person who wrote it managed to grab the admission committee member’s attention.

Sample 14: London Business School MBA essay

This essay was written by a candidate who got accepted to the London Business School. The school’s admission consultant shared this sample as a reference to other MBA aspirants. This piece will specifically help you understand the tone, writing style, formatting, and overall flow of the MBA application essay that meets the school’s standards.

Sample 15: A goal-oriented MBA application essay

Sometimes the MBA admission portal may demand an essay specifically focused on your future goals. In such a case, you must be very sure about yourself and must convey your goals and future directions based on your experiences and planning. Check out this sample to get an idea of how a successful candidate writes about personal goals.

Sample 16: Executive MBA essay

This successful MBA application essay was submitted to the MIT Sloan Executive MBA Program. EMBA essay requires you to show strong potential, impact, leadership, and the ultimate need for the program. Read this essay if EMBA is on your horizon.

making a video essay

Sample 17: MBA video essay

Many business schools are turning to video-based essays for MBA applications. A video-based essay is a better option to express yourself directly to the admission committee. A successful candidate for the Kellogg School of Management submitted this sample. Listen to the video and appreciate how beautifully the applicant has explained his journey from beginning to end. Want to learn more about video MBA essays? Here is a complete guide.

Sample 18: Short-answer-based MBA application essay

Some business schools require candidates to respond to short questions to get insights into their personalities and suitability for the MBA program. More or less, most of the questions revolve around the same theme. The key to success is to grasp the intention of the admission committee behind the questions and to stick to your identity . These successful answers submitted to the Tepper School of Business will help you in formulating your answers.

Sample 19: MIT Sloan School of Management

This essay was submitted by a successful candidate for the MIT Sloan School of Management MBA program. See how this applicant smartly answered the essay questions.

Sample 20:  Michigan Ross School of Business MBA program

The Michigan Ross Business School asks a diverse range of questions from candidates to analyze their competencies from multiple perspectives. If Michigan Ross is where you intend to get your MBA, this essay submitted by a candidate who got admitted to the school’s MBA program will help keep you on track.

What Should be Included in the MBA Application Essay?

  • Your background: What shaped you into what you are now? Including ethnicity, obstacles, and struggles.
  • Self-reflection: Your values, characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Your goals : How do you envision your future?
  • Aspirations: Why MBA is important to you and how this program will help you in shaping your future?
  • Justification: If you have low academic grades, explain the reasons you did not do well and what you learned from it.
  • Experience and achievements: What have you achieved so far?

These are the significant components of an MBA essay. Just adjust the sequence, play with words, and come up with a persuasive yet realistic picture of yourself.

mba applicant thinking what to write in her essay

What Makes a Great MBA Application Essay?

  • Be school-specific. Explain why you are passionate about the MBA program of the school to which you’re applying.
  • Avoid edition. Write simply and engagingly. Let the reader read a meaningful story about you.
  • Make it 100% typo-free. Grammatical errors and typos will ruin your essay. Apply standard essay format and structure guidelines , scan your piece several times for errors, get it reviewed by an expert, and present a very professional piece to the admission committee.
  • Be original. Do not copy-paste from any source. Strictly follow plagiarism guidelines.
  • Write an overwhelming introduction to urge the reader to keep reading and conclude your essay with a strong declaration.
  • Be authentic. Write what you are, not what the committee wants to read.
  • Be concise, as many schools impose a limit on the essay word count .

Do you want more tips? Here is a complete guide to writing a compelling MBA application essay.

The application essay is a core part of the admission process in the increasingly competitive MBA program. If you do not want to miss the chance of getting selected, you need to know what will make your essay stand out . The expert-vetted list of MBA application essay samples we cited here worked for the top business schools. Learn them by heart, and who knows, it may work for you too. Put your other activities aside, read and analyze the list carefully, and start writing your MBA essay to land in your dream business school.

AI marketing tools cover

Free resource: Get my full guide to AI-powered marketing tools and learn the skills necessary to thrive as a marketer in the digital era.

Rafal Reyzer

Rafal Reyzer

Hey there, welcome to my blog! I'm a full-time blogger, educator, digital marketer, freelance writer, editor, and content manager with 10+ years of experience. I started RafalReyzer.com to provide you with great tools and strategies you can use to become a proficient writer and achieve freedom through online creativity. My site is a one-stop shop for writers, digital marketers, and content enthusiasts who want to be independent, earn more money, and create beautiful things. Dive into my journey here , and don't miss out on my free PDF guide 80+ AI marketing tools .

MBA Watch Logo

50 MBA Essays That Got Applicants Admitted To Harvard & Stanford

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LinkedIn
  • Share on WhatsApp
  • Share on Reddit

What Matters? and What More? is a collection of 50 application essays written by successful MBA candidates to Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business

What Matters? and What More? is a collection of 50 application essays written by successful MBA candidates to Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business

I sat alone one Saturday night in a boardroom in Eastern Oregon, miles from home, my laptop lighting the room. I was painstakingly reviewing a complex spreadsheet of household energy consumption data, cell by cell. ‘Why am I doing this to myself? For remote transmission lines?’…I felt dejected. I’d felt that way before, during my summer at JP Morgan, standing alone in the printing room at 3 a.m., binding decks for a paper mill merger that wouldn’t affect my life in the least.

That’s how an analyst at an MBB firm started his MBA application essay to Stanford Graduate School of Business. His point: In a well-crafted essay, he confronts the challenge of finding meaning in his work and a place where he can make a meaningful difference. That is what really matters most to him, and his answer to Stanford’s iconic MBA application essay helped get him defy the formidable odds of acceptance and gain an admit to the school.

Getting into the prestigious MBA programs at either Stanford Graduate School of Business or Harvard Business School are among the most difficult journeys any young professional can make.

NEARLY 17,000 CANDIDATES APPLIED TO HARVARD & STANFORD LAST YEAR. 1,500 GOT IN

best mba application essays

This collection of 50 successful HBS and GSB essays, with smart commentary, can be downloaded for $60

They are two of the most selective schools, routinely rejecting nine or more out of every ten applicants. Last year alone, 16,628 candidates applied to both schools; just 1,520 gained an acceptance, a mere 9.1% admit rate.

Business school admissions are holistic, meaning that while standardized test scores and undergraduate transcripts are a critical part of the admissions process, they aren’t the whole story. In fact, the stories that applicants tell the schools in the form of essays can be a critical component of a successful application.

So what kinds of stories are successful applicants to Harvard and Stanford telling their admission officers? For the first time ever, a newly published collection of 50 of these essays from current MBA students at these two schools has been published. In ten cases, applicants share the essays they wrote in applying to both schools so you can see whether they merely did a cut-and-paste job or approached the task anew. The 188-page book, What Matters? and What More?, gains its title from the two iconic essay prompts at Harvard and Stanford.

THOUGHTFUL CRITIQUES OF THE ESSAYS

Stanford can easily boast having the most difficult question posed to MBA applicants in any given year: In 650 words or less, candidates must tell the school what matters most to them and why. Harvard gives applicants ample room to hang themselves, providing no word limit at all, “What more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?”

One makes this unusual collection of essays powerful are the thoughtful critiques by the founders of two MBA admissions consulting firms, Jeremy Shinewald of mbaMission and Liza Weale of Gatehouse Admissions. They write overviews of each essay in the book and then tear apart portions by paragraphs to either underline a point or address a weakness. The book became available to download for $60 a pop.

As I note in a foreword to the collection, published in partnership with Poets&Quants, the essay portion of an application is where a person can give voice to who they are, what they have achieved so far, and what they imagine their future to be. Yet crafting a powerful and introspective essay can be incredibly daunting as you stare at a blank computer screen.

APPLICANTS OPEN UP WITH INTIMATE STORIES THAT SHOW VULNERABILITY

One successful applicant to Harvard Business School begins his essay by conveying a deeply personal story: The time his father was told that he had three months to live, with his only hope being a double lung transplant. had to undergo a lung transplant. His opening line: “Despite all we had been through in recent years, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I asked my mother one summer evening in Singapore, ‘What role did I play during those tough times?’”

For this candidate to Stanford Graduate School of Business, the essay provided a chance to creatively engage admission readers about what matters most to him–equality-by cleverly using zip codes as a hook.

60605, 60606, 60607.

These zip codes are just one digit apart, but the difference that digit makes in someone’s life is unfathomable. I realized this on my first day as a high school senior. Leafing through my out-of- date, stained, calculus textbook, I kept picturing the new books that my friend from a neighboring (more affluent) district had. As college acceptances came in, I saw educational inequality’s more lasting effects—my friends from affluent districts that better funded education were headed to prestigious universities, while most of my classmates were only accepted by the local junior college. I was unsettled that this divergence wasn’t the students’ doing, but rather institutionalized by the state’s education system. Since this experience, I realized that the fight for education equality will be won through equal opportunity. Overcoming inequality, to ensure that everyone has a fair shake at success, is what matters most to me.

HOW AN APPLICANT TO BOTH SCHOOLS ALTERED HIS ESSAYS

Yet another candidate, who applied to both Harvard and Stanford, writes about being at but not fully present at his friend’s wedding.

The morning after serving as my friend’s best man, I was waiting for my Uber to the airport and—as usual—scrolling through my phone,” he wrote. “I had taken seemingly hundreds of photos of the event, posting in real time to social media, but had not really looked through them. With growing unease, I noticed people and things that had not registered with me the night before and realized I had been so preoccupied with capturing the occasion on my phone that I had essentially missed the whole thing. I never learned the name of the woman beside me at the reception. I could not recall the wedding cake flavor. I never introduced myself to my friend’s grandfather from Edmonton. I was so mortified that before checking into my flight, I turned my phone off and stuffed it into my carry-on.

The Stanford version of his essay is more compact. In truth, it’s more succinctly written and more satisfying because it is to the point. By stripping away all but the most critical pieces of his narrative, the candidate focuses his essay entirely on his central point: the battle of man versus technology.

Even if you’re not applying to business school, the essays are entertaining and fun to read. Sure, precious few are New Yorker worthy. In fact, many are fairly straightforward tales, simply told. What the successful essays clearly show is that there is no cookie-cutter formula or paint-by-the-numbers approach. Some start bluntly and straightforwardly, without a compelling or even interesting opening. Some meander through different themes. Some betray real personality and passion. Others are frankly boring. If a pattern of any kind could be discerned, it is how genuine the essays read.

The greatest benefit of reading them? For obsessive applicants to two of the very best business schools, they’ll take a lot of pressure off of you because they are quite imperfect.

GET YOUR COPY OF WHAT MATTERS? AND WHAT MORE? NOW

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.

  • Stay Informed. Sign Up! Login Logout Search for:

best mba application essays

GMAT Score: Understanding The New GMAT Focus Edition

Caroline Diarte Edwards

Navigating The New GMAT Focus Edition And GRE

Mba predictions for 2024.

Dr. Judith Silverman Hodara Fortuna

Are You Ready For An MBA? Ask Yourself These 4 Questions

  • How To Use Poets&Quants MBA Admissions Consultant Directory
  • How To Select An MBA Admissions Consultant
  • MBA Admission Consulting Claims: How Credible?
  • Suddenly Cozy: MBA Consultants and B-Schools
  • The Cost: $6,850 Result: B-School

Our Partner Sites: Poets&Quants for Execs | Poets&Quants for Undergrads | Tipping the Scales | We See Genius

ACCEPTED

Which program are you applying to?

Mba personal statement examples.

Get accepted to your top choice business school with your compelling essay.

MBA Personal Statement Sample Essays & Tips

Your academic record, GMAT scores, and GPA are important factors in the MBA application process. But, more than that, business schools ultimately care about who you are and whether you would be a good fit for their program. This is where your application essays come in. The goal here is to complete the picture that your scores and stats began sketching. Take your time when writing these essays. They will form the image the admissions committee will see before they meet you at your interview. Write, edit, and edit again. Be sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors in your essay. You want your portrait to be clean and clear. Once you are satisfied with your essay, ask a trusted friend, mentor, or admissions pro to read it. A fresh pair of eyes can often see things that you can’t.

7 tips for creating the best MBA essays

Here are some important things to remember when writing your MBA essays.

  • Show who you are in a background essay Use this opportunity to reveal your values and personality, the obstacles you’ve overcome, and the seminal experiences that have shaped you into the person you are today. No two people have the same history. Use stories and examples to make your background bright and stand out to demonstrate what makes you special. Discuss how your history has brought you to this point. What is there in your background that compels you to pursue an MBA at this time?
  • Show your direction in the goals essay Use this opportunity to show that you have clear direction and purpose based on experience and planning. Business school is not another opportunity to “find yourself.” Even if you have had one career path and will use your MBA to launch another career, this essay must describe the reasons behind your career-change, your new goals, and how the program will help you achieve them.
  • Use your optional essay to explain negatives in your stats If your GPA was lower than you would have liked early in your undergraduate education, use your essay to show how you learned from this experience. Everyone makes mistakes. How you deal with your mistakes shows a lot to the admissions committee – determination, discipline, success, resilience, and breadth of experience are qualities that will serve you well in your MBA studies and later in life. Be sure that you explain your negatives and don’t try to justify them. Show that you understand the mistake you made, learned from it and changed as a result of processing the experience. That response shows maturity. Justifying – instead of learning or changing – is a sign of immaturity. MBA programs want mature adults. Almost all of them have made mistakes.
  • Say what you mean, and mean what you say Admissions committees read thousands of essays during each admissions round. A concise, well thought-out essay will have them reading yours to the end.  You need examples and stories to support your statements and make your essay interesting and readable. Each of these needs to be to the point. These professionals are trained to spot an essay that is full of fluff and without substance.Avoid rambling and the use of keywords that you think the reader wants to see. A non-substantive essay will lead the reader to conclude that you, too, are without substance.
  • Find your passion This relates to tip #4 above. You want to grab the reader right away and create an essay that will keep their attention to the very end – and leave them wanting to meet you and get to know you even better. In other words, offer you a coveted interview! Find a theme, and weave it throughout your essay. If you can identify a passion that you had from an early age and follow it through the different stages of your life, you will have an interesting, readable essay. Connect your passion to your childhood and you professional and extracurricular experiences and accomplishments. Demonstrate how your passion will influence your future career and serve the community at the school you want to attend.
  • Focus on your professional experience and achievements Not everyone has a passion that they have carried with them throughout their life. However, since you are planning on attending an MBA program, you must have had professional and personal achievements. Highlight your professional skills and successes, as well as personal accomplishments. Show how these experiences and achievements have brought you to this point, and how they have influenced your long-term plans and reasons for pursuing an MBA.
  • Highlight your experience in your EMBA essay An applicant to an Executive MBA program is an executive or manager currently in the workforce, usually with at least eight years of business experience. As an EMBA student you will be expected to excel in your coursework while continuing to hold down your full-time job. You must demonstrate significant leadership, impact, potential, and the legitimate need for the degree to be accepted. Highlight your current responsibilities and recent achievements, as well as your skill sets. Discuss your goals and how an EMBA will help you reach them. Include how you will positively impact the community at the program you are applying to.

Read MBA Personal Statement Examples

Now that you have the tools to write your compelling essay, check out our sample MBA application essays to see what you will be able to accomplish.

GET ALL THE SAMPLE ESSAYS IN ONE CONVENIENT PDF!

BONUS: You'll also receive a free copy of our popular guide,  5 Fatal Flaws To Avoid in Your MBA Applications Essays.

Get Expert Help With Your MBA Application

Our world-class team helps you stand out from the competition and get accepted.

APPLICATION STRATEGY /  ESSAY REVIEW / INTERVIEW PREP

TOP 10 BUSINESS SCHOOLS

HAVE AN AVERAGE ACCEPTANCE RATE OF  10.25%. 

home-usnews

A STRONG BUSINESS SCHOOL APPLICATION ESSAY WILL MAKE YOU STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD

You want to get into a top business school, but you need to stand out from the tens of thousands of other impressive applicants. According to US News, the average top 20 b-school acceptance rate is 12.37%, but our MBA clients enjoy an 84% ACCEPTANCE RATE . How can you separate yourself from the competition successfully? By crafting an excellent application essay.

Our clients gain acceptance to... 

Logo_Harvard_Business_School

MIT, Kellogg, HAAS, Tuck, Columbia, NYU and many other business schools.

Get Accepted! Speak with an admissions expert today!

About Stanford GSB

  • The Leadership
  • Dean’s Updates
  • School News & History
  • Commencement
  • Business, Government & Society
  • Centers & Institutes
  • Center for Entrepreneurial Studies
  • Center for Social Innovation
  • Stanford Seed

About the Experience

  • Learning at Stanford GSB
  • Experiential Learning
  • Guest Speakers
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Social Innovation
  • Communication
  • Life at Stanford GSB
  • Collaborative Environment
  • Activities & Organizations
  • Student Services
  • Housing Options
  • International Students

Full-Time Degree Programs

  • Why Stanford MBA
  • Academic Experience
  • Financial Aid
  • Why Stanford MSx
  • Research Fellows Program
  • See All Programs

Non-Degree & Certificate Programs

  • Executive Education
  • Stanford Executive Program
  • Programs for Organizations
  • The Difference
  • Online Programs
  • Stanford LEAD
  • Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate
  • Seed Transformation Program
  • Aspire Program
  • Seed Spark Program
  • Faculty Profiles
  • Academic Areas
  • Awards & Honors
  • Conferences

Faculty Research

  • Publications
  • Working Papers
  • Case Studies

Research Hub

  • Research Labs & Initiatives
  • Business Library
  • Data, Analytics & Research Computing
  • Behavioral Lab

Research Labs

  • Cities, Housing & Society Lab
  • Golub Capital Social Impact Lab

Research Initiatives

  • Corporate Governance Research Initiative
  • Corporations and Society Initiative
  • Policy and Innovation Initiative
  • Rapid Decarbonization Initiative
  • Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative
  • Value Chain Innovation Initiative
  • Venture Capital Initiative
  • Career & Success
  • Climate & Sustainability
  • Corporate Governance
  • Culture & Society
  • Finance & Investing
  • Government & Politics
  • Leadership & Management
  • Markets & Trade
  • Operations & Logistics
  • Opportunity & Access
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Political Economy
  • Social Impact
  • Technology & AI
  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Email Newsletter

Welcome, Alumni

  • Communities
  • Digital Communities & Tools
  • Regional Chapters
  • Women’s Programs
  • Identity Chapters
  • Find Your Reunion
  • Career Resources
  • Job Search Resources
  • Career & Life Transitions
  • Programs & Services
  • Career Video Library
  • Alumni Education
  • Research Resources
  • Volunteering
  • Alumni News
  • Class Notes
  • Alumni Voices
  • Contact Alumni Relations
  • Upcoming Events

Admission Events & Information Sessions

  • MBA Program
  • MSx Program
  • PhD Program
  • Alumni Events
  • All Other Events
  • Second Year
  • Global Experiences
  • JD/MBA Joint Degree
  • MA Education/MBA Joint Degree
  • MD/MBA Dual Degree
  • MPP/MBA Joint Degree
  • MS Computer Science/MBA Joint Degree
  • MS Electrical Engineering/MBA Joint Degree
  • MS Environment and Resources (E-IPER)/MBA Joint Degree
  • Academic Calendar
  • Clubs & Activities
  • LGBTQ+ Students
  • Military Veterans
  • Minorities & People of Color
  • Partners & Families
  • Students with Disabilities
  • Student Support
  • Residential Life
  • Student Voices
  • MBA Alumni Voices
  • A Week in the Life
  • Career Support
  • Employment Outcomes
  • Cost of Attendance
  • Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program
  • Yellow Ribbon Program
  • BOLD Fellows Fund
  • Application Process
  • Loan Forgiveness
  • Contact the Financial Aid Office
  • Evaluation Criteria
  • GMAT & GRE
  • English Language Proficiency
  • Personal Information, Activities & Awards
  • Professional Experience
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Optional Short Answer Questions
  • Application Fee
  • Reapplication
  • Deferred Enrollment
  • Entering Class Profile
  • Event Schedule
  • Ambassadors
  • New & Noteworthy
  • Ask a Question
  • Student Life & Community
  • Career Impact
  • Tuition & Aid

Essays help us learn about who you are rather than solely what you have done.

Other parts of the application give insight into your academic and professional accomplishments; the essays reveal the person behind those achievements.

Essay Questions

We request that you write two personal essays.

In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice. Think carefully about your values, passions, aims, and dreams. There is no “right answer” to these questions - the best answer is the one that is truest for you.

Essay A: What matters most to you, and why?

For this essay, we would like you to reflect deeply and write from the heart. Once you’ve identified what matters most to you, help us understand why. You might consider, for example, what makes this so important to you? What people, insights, or experiences have shaped your perspectives?

Essay B: Why Stanford?

Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them. If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.

Both essays combined may not exceed 1,050 words. We recommend up to 650 words for Essay A and up to 400 words for Essay B. We often read effective essays that are written in fewer words.

Editing Your Essays

Begin work on the essays early to give yourself time to reflect, write, and edit.

Feel free to ask friends or family members for feedback, especially about whether the tone and voice sound like you. Your family and friends know you better than anyone. If they think the essays do not capture who you are, what you believe, and what you aspire to do, then surely we will be unable to recognize what is distinctive about you.

Feedback vs. Coaching

There is a big difference between “feedback” and “coaching.” You cross that line when any part of the application (excluding the letters of recommendation ) ceases to be exclusively yours in either thought or word.

Appropriate feedback occurs when others review your completed application - perhaps once or twice - and apprise you of omissions, errors, or inaccuracies that you later correct or address. After editing is complete, your thoughts, voice, and style remain intact. Inappropriate coaching occurs when you allow others to craft any part of your application for you and, as a result, your application or self-presentation is not authentic.

It is improper and a violation of the terms of this application process to have someone else write your essays. Such behavior will result in denial of your application or revocation of your admission.

Additional Information

If there is any information that is critical for us to know and is not captured elsewhere, include it in the “Additional Information” section of the application. Pertinent examples include:

  • Extenuating circumstances affecting your candidacy, including academic, work, or test-taking experiences
  • Academic experience (e.g., independent research) not noted elsewhere

This section should not be used as an additional essay.

  • See the Current DEI Report
  • Supporting Data
  • Research & Insights
  • Share Your Thoughts
  • Search Fund Primer
  • Teaching & Curriculum
  • Affiliated Faculty
  • Faculty Advisors
  • Louis W. Foster Resource Center
  • Defining Social Innovation
  • Impact Compass
  • Global Health Innovation Insights
  • Faculty Affiliates
  • Student Awards & Certificates
  • Changemakers
  • Dean Garth Saloner
  • Dean Robert Joss
  • Dean Michael Spence
  • Dean Robert Jaedicke
  • Dean Rene McPherson
  • Dean Arjay Miller
  • Dean Ernest Arbuckle
  • Dean Jacob Hugh Jackson
  • Dean Willard Hotchkiss
  • Faculty in Memoriam
  • Stanford GSB Firsts
  • Certificate & Award Recipients
  • Dean’s Remarks
  • Keynote Address
  • Teaching Approach
  • Analysis and Measurement of Impact
  • The Corporate Entrepreneur: Startup in a Grown-Up Enterprise
  • Data-Driven Impact
  • Designing Experiments for Impact
  • Digital Business Transformation
  • The Founder’s Right Hand
  • Marketing for Measurable Change
  • Product Management
  • Public Policy Lab: Financial Challenges Facing US Cities
  • Public Policy Lab: Homelessness in California
  • Lab Features
  • Curricular Integration
  • View From The Top
  • Formation of New Ventures
  • Managing Growing Enterprises
  • Startup Garage
  • Explore Beyond the Classroom
  • Stanford Venture Studio
  • Summer Program
  • Workshops & Events
  • The Five Lenses of Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership Labs
  • Executive Challenge
  • Arbuckle Leadership Fellows Program
  • Selection Process
  • Training Schedule
  • Time Commitment
  • Learning Expectations
  • Post-Training Opportunities
  • Who Should Apply
  • Introductory T-Groups
  • Leadership for Society Program
  • Certificate
  • 2023 Awardees
  • 2022 Awardees
  • 2021 Awardees
  • 2020 Awardees
  • 2019 Awardees
  • 2018 Awardees
  • Social Management Immersion Fund
  • Stanford Impact Founder Fellowships and Prizes
  • Stanford Impact Leader Prizes
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Stanford GSB Impact Fund
  • Economic Development
  • Energy & Environment
  • Stanford GSB Residences
  • Environmental Leadership
  • Stanford GSB Artwork
  • A Closer Look
  • California & the Bay Area
  • Voices of Stanford GSB
  • Business & Beneficial Technology
  • Business & Sustainability
  • Business & Free Markets
  • News & Insights
  • Get Involved
  • See Why Stanford MSx
  • Is MSx Right for You?
  • Leadership Development
  • Career Advancement
  • Career Change
  • How You Will Learn
  • Admission Events
  • Personal Information
  • Information for Recommenders
  • GMAT, GRE & EA
  • English Proficiency Tests
  • After You’re Admitted
  • Daycare, Schools & Camps
  • U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents
  • Requirements
  • Requirements: Behavioral
  • Requirements: Quantitative
  • Requirements: Macro
  • Requirements: Micro
  • Annual Evaluations
  • Field Examination
  • Research Activities
  • Research Papers
  • Dissertation
  • Oral Examination
  • Current Students
  • Education & CV
  • International Applicants
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Reapplicants
  • Application Fee Waiver
  • Deadline & Decisions
  • Job Market Candidates
  • Academic Placements
  • Stay in Touch
  • Faculty Mentors
  • Current Fellows
  • Standard Track
  • Fellowship & Benefits
  • Group Enrollment
  • Program Formats
  • Developing a Program
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Strategic Transformation
  • Program Experience
  • Contact Client Services
  • Campus Experience
  • Live Online Experience
  • Silicon Valley & Bay Area
  • Digital Credentials
  • Faculty Spotlights
  • Participant Spotlights
  • Eligibility
  • International Participants
  • Stanford Ignite
  • Operations, Information & Technology
  • Classical Liberalism
  • The Eddie Lunch
  • Accounting Summer Camp
  • Videos, Code & Data
  • California Econometrics Conference
  • California Quantitative Marketing PhD Conference
  • California School Conference
  • China India Insights Conference
  • Homo economicus, Evolving
  • Political Economics (2023–24)
  • Scaling Geologic Storage of CO2 (2023–24)
  • A Resilient Pacific: Building Connections, Envisioning Solutions
  • Adaptation and Innovation
  • Changing Climate
  • Civil Society
  • Climate Impact Summit
  • Climate Science
  • Corporate Carbon Disclosures
  • Earth’s Seafloor
  • Environmental Justice
  • Operations and Information Technology
  • Organizations
  • Sustainability Reporting and Control
  • Taking the Pulse of the Planet
  • Urban Infrastructure
  • Watershed Restoration
  • Junior Faculty Workshop on Financial Regulation and Banking
  • Ken Singleton Celebration
  • Quantitative Marketing PhD Alumni Conference
  • Presentations
  • Theory and Inference in Accounting Research
  • Stanford Closer Look Series
  • Quick Guides
  • Core Concepts
  • Journal Articles
  • Glossary of Terms
  • Faculty & Staff
  • Researchers & Students
  • Research Approach
  • Charitable Giving
  • Financial Health
  • Government Services
  • Workers & Careers
  • Short Course
  • Adaptive & Iterative Experimentation
  • Incentive Design
  • Social Sciences & Behavioral Nudges
  • Bandit Experiment Application
  • Conferences & Events
  • Reading Materials
  • Energy Entrepreneurship
  • Faculty & Affiliates
  • SOLE Report
  • Responsible Supply Chains
  • Current Study Usage
  • Pre-Registration Information
  • Participate in a Study
  • Founding Donors
  • Location Information
  • Participant Profile
  • Network Membership
  • Program Impact
  • Collaborators
  • Entrepreneur Profiles
  • Company Spotlights
  • Seed Transformation Network
  • Responsibilities
  • Current Coaches
  • How to Apply
  • Meet the Consultants
  • Meet the Interns
  • Intern Profiles
  • Collaborate
  • Research Library
  • Program Contacts
  • Databases & Datasets
  • Research Guides
  • Consultations
  • Research Workshops
  • Career Research
  • Research Data Services
  • Course Reserves
  • Course Research Guides
  • Material Loan Periods
  • Fines & Other Charges
  • Document Delivery
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Equipment Checkout
  • Print & Scan
  • MBA & MSx Students
  • PhD Students
  • Other Stanford Students
  • Faculty Assistants
  • Research Assistants
  • Stanford GSB Alumni
  • Telling Our Story
  • Staff Directory
  • Site Registration
  • Alumni Directory
  • Alumni Email
  • Privacy Settings & My Profile
  • Event Registration
  • Success Stories
  • The Story of Circles
  • Support Women’s Circles
  • Stanford Women on Boards Initiative
  • Alumnae Spotlights
  • Insights & Research
  • Industry & Professional
  • Entrepreneurial Commitment Group
  • Recent Alumni
  • Half-Century Club
  • Fall Reunions
  • Spring Reunions
  • MBA 25th Reunion
  • Half-Century Club Reunion
  • Faculty Lectures
  • Ernest C. Arbuckle Award
  • Alison Elliott Exceptional Achievement Award
  • ENCORE Award
  • Excellence in Leadership Award
  • John W. Gardner Volunteer Leadership Award
  • Robert K. Jaedicke Faculty Award
  • Jack McDonald Military Service Appreciation Award
  • Jerry I. Porras Latino Leadership Award
  • Tapestry Award
  • Student & Alumni Events
  • Executive Recruiters
  • Interviewing
  • Negotiating
  • Elevator Pitch
  • Email Best Practices
  • Resumes & Cover Letters
  • Self-Assessment
  • Whitney Birdwell Ball
  • Margaret Brooks
  • Bryn Panee Burkhart
  • Margaret Chan
  • Ricki Frankel
  • Peter Gandolfo
  • Cindy W. Greig
  • Natalie Guillen
  • Carly Janson
  • Sloan Klein
  • Sherri Appel Lassila
  • Stuart Meyer
  • Tanisha Parrish
  • Virginia Roberson
  • Philippe Taieb
  • Michael Takagawa
  • Terra Winston
  • Johanna Wise
  • Debbie Wolter
  • Rebecca Zucker
  • Complimentary Coaching
  • Changing Careers
  • Work-Life Integration
  • Career Breaks
  • Flexible Work
  • Encore Careers
  • D&B Hoovers
  • Data Axle (ReferenceUSA)
  • EBSCO Business Source
  • Global Newsstream
  • Market Share Reporter
  • ProQuest One Business
  • Student Clubs
  • Entrepreneurial Students
  • Stanford GSB Trust
  • Alumni Community
  • How to Volunteer
  • Springboard Sessions
  • Consulting Projects
  • 2020 – 2029
  • 2010 – 2019
  • 2000 – 2009
  • 1990 – 1999
  • 1980 – 1989
  • 1970 – 1979
  • 1960 – 1969
  • 1950 – 1959
  • 1940 – 1949
  • Service Areas
  • ACT History
  • ACT Awards Celebration
  • Contact ACT
  • Business & Nonprofit Communities
  • Reunion Volunteers
  • Ways to Give
  • Fiscal Year Report
  • Business School Fund Leadership Council
  • Planned Giving Options
  • Planned Giving Benefits
  • Planned Gifts and Reunions
  • Legacy Partners
  • Strategic Initiatives
  • Giving News & Stories
  • Giving Deadlines
  • Development Staff
  • Submit Class Notes
  • Class Secretaries
  • Board of Directors
  • Health Care
  • Sustainability
  • Class Takeaways
  • All Else Equal: Making Better Decisions
  • If/Then: Business, Leadership, Society
  • Grit & Growth
  • Leadership for Society
  • Think Fast, Talk Smart
  • Spring 2022
  • Spring 2021
  • Autumn 2020
  • Summer 2020
  • Winter 2020
  • In the Media
  • For Journalists
  • DCI Fellows
  • Other Auditors
  • Academic Calendar & Deadlines
  • Course Materials
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Entrepreneurial Resources
  • Campus Drive Grove
  • Campus Drive Lawn
  • CEMEX Auditorium
  • King Community Court
  • Seawell Family Boardroom
  • Stanford GSB Bowl
  • Stanford Investors Common
  • Town Square
  • Vidalakis Courtyard
  • Vidalakis Dining Hall
  • Catering Services
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Reservations
  • Contact Faculty Recruiting
  • Lecturer Positions
  • Postdoctoral Positions
  • Accommodations
  • CMC-Managed Interviews
  • Recruiter-Managed Interviews
  • Virtual Interviews
  • Campus & Virtual
  • Search for Candidates
  • Think Globally
  • Recruiting Calendar
  • Recruiting Policies
  • Full-Time Employment
  • Summer Employment
  • Entrepreneurial Summer Program
  • Global Management Immersion Experience
  • Social-Purpose Summer Internships
  • Client Eligibility Criteria
  • Client Screening
  • ACT Leadership
  • Social Innovation & Nonprofit Management Resources
  • Develop Your Organization’s Talent
  • Centers & Initiatives
  • Student Fellowships

GMAT Prep Online Guides and Tips

7 tips for writing a winning mba application essay.

best mba application essays

Nervous about your MBA admissions essay? You’re not alone! Many applicants wonder how to put their best foot forward in a business school entrance essay.

In this article, I’ll tell you what admissions committees look for in application essays and offer MBA essay tips on how to make yours stand out. We’ll also take a look at the different kinds of business school essays and a few examples of MBA essay prompts.

Why Do Business Schools Ask for Essays? What Do They Look For?

Business schools ask for essays for several reasons, all of which help admissions committees determine whether you have the skills and traits to succeed in an MBA program.

First, MBA admissions committees want to see how you write. Communication skills—including concision, clarity, style, and fluency in English—will be essential to your success in business school. One way of discerning your level of writing ability is to require an original writing sample. In an MBA essay, you have to get your point across straightforwardly, elegantly, and concisely; being able to do this is a key element of succeeding in business school and the world of business in general.

Also, MBA admissions committees want to get a sense of who you are on a more personal level. MBA application essays tell admissions officials about you not only through what you say, but in how you say it. Are you self-aware, for example, and can you reflect on past challenges or mistakes in a thoughtful way? Do you demonstrate insight into who you are and your goals? How you answer questions about yourself, your career, and your journey can help MBA admissions officials discern your level of critical thinking and personal insight.

Not sure how or what to study? Confused by how to improve your score in the shortest time possible? We've created the only Online GMAT Prep Program that identifies your strengths and weaknesses, customizes a study plan, coaches you through lessons and quizzes, and adapts your study plan as you improve.

We believe PrepScholar GMAT is the best GMAT prep program available , especially if you find it hard to organize your study schedule and don't want to spend a ton of money on the other companies' one-size-fits-all study plans.

     Improve Your GMAT Score by 60 Points, Guaranteed     

You can have countless accomplishments, but to succeed in business school, you’ll also need to fit in with the campus climate, work well with your peers, and contribute to campus diversity in a meaningful way. The MBA essay is a place for you to talk about the background or experiences you have that are unique to you and that you believe could differentiate you from your colleagues and/or provide a fresh perspective to campus.

Finally, essays are a way for you to showcase the qualities that most MBA programs say they are looking for in applicants, such as leadership skills, community involvement, problem-solving skills, communication skills, clear goals, and a strong sense of ethics. Some of these traits might not be readily apparent from a resume alone, and an MBA essay can be a place for you to elaborate on how you’ve cultivated them in yourself.

The MBA essay is a great place for you to showcase your communication skills and dedication to community service.

MBA Entrance Essay Sample Prompts

Most MBA entrance essays ask you about one of several things. Many of them are variations on similar questions: the open-ended question, the leadership question, the personal growth question, questions on short- and long-term academic and career goals, and the diversity question. For each one, I’ll give an example of a real MBA essay prompt from 2016 or 2017.

#1: Open-Ended

The open-ended MBA application essay question is just that: open. It allows you to tell your own story, giving you quite a bit of freedom but also little to no guidance. For that reason, many applicants find it to be the most challenging MBA essay prompt.

Harvard Business School has only one essay for its MBA application, and it’s the quintessential open-ended MBA essay question. This is the prompt for 2017-2018 applicants.

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?

Note that, as in other open-ended MBA admission essay prompts, this question asks you to decide what you’ll write about. Successful Harvard applicants and HBS admissions counselors have advised applicants to use the prompt as a chance to demonstrate their past use of an especially desired trait, such as problem-solving skills. For example, many successful applicants use the prompt to describe a scenario in which they faced and overcame a challenge, especially as a leader or alongside a team.

Notably, Harvard also doesn’t list a word limit, so you can decide the appropriate length for your essay. However, most admissions counselors will advise you to keep it concise and straightforward.

#2: Leadership

Another common MBA essay prompt asks you to demonstrate your experience and skills as a leader. Leadership qualities are listed by nearly all MBA admissions counselors as fundamental to a career in business and, thus, to a successful business school application.

Let’s look at a sample leadership MBA essay prompt from Kellogg.

Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)

In a response to this kind of prompt, you should be as specific as possible. Name the company you were working for or specifically describe the project you were heading. Who was on your team? What were your objectives? Did you meet them? How could you have done so more effectively?

While you shouldn’t be overly self-deprecating, don’t be afraid to address the challenges you met and how you overcame them (or would overcome them now, with more experience and knowledge). Remember that one important aspect of leadership is accountability, so if there were problems, don’t solely blame your team for them. Instead, reflect on how you successfully worked with your team to solve the problems, and/or on how you could have done so more effectively or efficiently.

#3: Personal Growth

The personal growth MBA admission essay prompt will ask you how you’ve changed in the past and how you want to grow in the future. Here’s one example from the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.

Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)

Don’t be afraid to get a bit personal with these kinds of prompts . They’re meant to gauge something about your personality and who you are, rather than only what you’ve done.

Many successful MBA admission essays that respond to these kinds of questions follow a past/present/future format. Ask yourself what traits you’ve gathered over the years that have benefited you personally and professionally, how you’ve improved, and what you’ve learned. What experiences have shaped you? Be as specific as possible.

Want to improve your GMAT score by 60 points?

We have the industry's leading GMAT prep program. Built by Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Wharton alumni and GMAT 99th percentile scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses and customizes a curriculum so you get the most effective prep possible.

Try PrepScholar GMAT for 5 Days Risk-Free.

Then, take stock of yourself now: your career, your education, and where you see yourself in the future. What do you need in order to get there?

Finally, most essay MBA prompts in this vein (like Kellogg’s) will ask you how they can help you move towards that personal or professional goal. Be as specific as you can, focusing on the particular strengths of the prospective MBA program and how they match up with what you want to improve about yourself as a person, colleague, and leader.

You can use the MBA essay to showcase how you've grown personally and achieved your goals.

#4: Your Plan

Some MBA application essay prompts will ask you about your career goals and how attendance at a particular business school will help you to achieve them. Let’s look at one from the USC Marshall School of Business.

Essay #1 (Required) – What is your specific, immediate short-term career goal upon completion of your MBA? Please include an intended position, function, and industry in your response. (word limit: 100)

As you can see, questions like these often request brief responses. So get straight to the point, and give details. Name a specific job you’d like to hold, what you’d like to do there, and even particular companies if you can.

Questions like this one will require some research. Research alumni from your prospective business school who’ve ended up in positions comparable to ones you’d like to hold in the future, particular companies and positions that match up with your personal and professional goals, and specific coursework or industry experiences offered by your prospective business school that would help you get there.

#5: Diversity, Culture, and Community

Finally, some MBA essay prompts will ask you how your unique background and experiences would contribute to the overall diversity and collegial atmosphere of a school’s campus climate and community. Here’s one example from USC.

Essay #2 (Required) – At Marshall, we take pride in the fact that our students work collaboratively, both inside and outside the classroom, to create a culture, a community, and an environment that truly defines what we call the Trojan Family. Please describe the contributions you expect to make to your classmates during your time at USC. How will they benefit from your presence in the program? (word limit: 500)

You can respond to questions like this, depending on the wording of the original prompt, by discussing your cultural background, identity, and/or personal experiences that have given you particular insight into a given community or that have lent you a unique perspective that could be valuable to your colleagues as you collaborate.

You can also discuss past community service projects or issues you’re passionate about and how you plan to carry those experiences and passions into your work at your prospective MBA program.

What makes you unique? Showcase it in your MBA essay.

7 MBA Essay Tips

Writing MBA essays takes a particular skill set. Let’s go over the top seven MBA essay tips for making your application essay shine.

Want to Identify YOUR GMAT Strengths and Weaknesses?

Our proprietary GMAT Diagnostic Assessment creates a customized study plan for you that takes you from registration all the way to test day! It is included with every account and proven to significantly maximize your score .

Get your personalized assessment as part of your 5 day risk-free trial now:

Get Your Free GMAT Diagnostic Assessment Here

#1: Write Early and Often

Even though MBA entrance essays are brief, they take a lot of polishing. Writing MBA essays takes time.

Don’t expect to write yours at the last minute or knock out a quality essay in a day. Most students need several drafts to make sure they’re getting their points across as elegantly and clearly as possible.

Start your essay well before the application deadline, when you don’t yet feel any pressure. For several weeks, don’t try to write at all. Instead, before crafting your essay for MBA admission, take notes on your past, present, and future. What have you learned? What unique experiences have you had? What have been the most meaningful projects you’ve undertaken? Ask friends, family, and mentors to tell you what they value most about you or what they see as your greatest personal and professional assets.

Only once you’ve gathered this material should you begin your first draft of your MBA application essay. Start with an outline for each one that includes the story you want to tell and the main points you want to get across.

Once you have a clear outline, you can start drafting. Taking the writing process seriously from start to finish will give you a much better product in the end than trying to write something hastily right before the deadline.

#2: Show, Don’t Tell

MBA admissions committees want to be able to tell that you have the qualities that are necessary to succeed in business school, such as leadership skills and integrity.

Your MBA admissions essay can be a great place to showcase those qualities. However, remember to show, not tell. Saying “I have strong leadership skills” doesn’t tell an admissions committee much. Through an anecdote about, say, meeting a difficult deadline or overcoming an obstacle, a reader should be able to tell that you have the qualities of a strong leader without your having to say so explicitly.

#3: Research Your Goals

When describing your future goals, be as specific as possible. Business schools know that your goals may change in the future, but stating specific goals now will show that you’ve done your research and have an idea of what you want and how an MBA program can help you get there.

Before writing your essay for MBA admission, research the ins and outs of the industry you want to enter, the position you’d like to have, companies you might like to work for, and coursework and internships or fieldwork that could aid you on your way to those goals.

#4: Keep It Concise

Never, ever go over a stated word count limit when you’re writing your essay for MBA admission. It might be tempting, but business schools want to see that you can get your point across concisely and straightforwardly.This rule goes for MBA essay prompts that don’t have specific word counts, too: sometimes, less is more.

One of the biggest mistakes applicants make in writing an essay for MBA admission is to use too much flowery language to come across as more professional. If you do this, it can be distracting and cause the admissions committee to miss the main points you’re making.

Bottom line, trim anything extraneous from your essay —that is, anything that doesn’t actively support the main point(s) you’re trying to get across.

When it comes to an MBA essay, sometimes less is more.

#5: Show Self-Awareness

It might feel tempting to use the MBA admission essay as a space to list all of your accomplishments (and since your resume is already part of your application, this is unnecessary), but MBA admissions committees would rather see that you have insight into both your strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect, and in your essay for MBA admission, you shouldn’t try to come across as if you’ve never made a mistake or faced a challenge that you’ve had to learn from.

Also, in business school and the business world at large, bouncing back from failures, being flexible, and problem solving are all essential skills. All of them require a thick skin and awareness of what you could do better.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t showcase your achievements, but if you’re asked about personal growth or an obstacle you’ve overcome, be clear about what you could have done more effectively in the past (at a job or in your education, for example) and the steps you’ve taken or will take to sidestep that mistake in the future.

#6: Share Your Personal Journey

Many applicants would prefer to focus only on their professional backgrounds and goals in their MBA essays, but you shouldn’t be afraid to get personal in your essay. You don’t need to tell your whole life story, but especially in response to questions that ask about your growth over time, you should showcase your personality and give the admissions committee an idea of your personal background and experiences.

#7: Ask for Edits

It might seem obvious, but many applicants don’t do it: proofread your work! When writing MBA essays, revision is key. Turning in an MBA essay with typos and other errors will come off as thoughtless and unprofessional.

You should also get a second (and, perhaps, a third and fourth) pair of eyes on your essay to make sure it’s coming across as you want it to. Going through several rounds of drafts is a necessary part of the writing process to ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward in your MBA entrance essay.

Revise your MBA essay until it comes across exactly how you want.

What’s Next?

Worried about how your GMAT score matches up to other applicants’? Find out more in our list of average GMAT scores by school.

Concerned about your chances of getting into an MBA program? Our guide to business school acceptance rates will help.

Ready to apply to business school? Check out our top eight tips for applying to MBA programs here.

Was this helpful? Sign up for FREE GMAT and MBA guides!

Share this:.

  • Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)

best mba application essays

Author: Laura Dorwart

Laura Dorwart is a Ph.D. student at UC San Diego. She has taught and tutored hundreds of students in standardized testing, literature, and writing. View all posts by Laura Dorwart

Which program are you applying to?

Accepted

Accepted Admissions Blog

Everything you need to know to get Accepted

best mba application essays

June 29, 2023

Harvard Business School MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines [2023 – 2024]

HBS Business School Essay Tips

The Admissions Office at Harvard Business School (HBS) has announced updates for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. The most important update is that if you plan to apply to HBS and have yet to take an entrance exam, you should take the traditional GMAT test (including the AWA) or the GRE. HBS will not accept the GMAT Focus Edition exam because it will not be available until after the Round 1 deadline. This will eliminate any confusion that might occur across Rounds 1 and 2. 

The essay prompt and word limit will remain the same, at a maximum (not necessarily a requirement) of 900 words. The team also indicates that if you can tell your story in 500 words, that’s fine too.

  • HBS MBA essay tips
  • HBS 2023-2024 deadlines
  • HBS class profile
  • Sample HBS Essay
  • More resources

Harvard will continue being one of the few, if not the only, school with just two rounds (September and January). HBS uses an April deadline exclusively for HBS 2+2, its deferred admission program.

Let’s talk about Harvard’s MBA application

On to the Harvard MBA application and essay question itself: HBS clearly likes  the responses it has received  to the past several years’ excellent essay question because this year’s question is identical. The essay is again required, and there is a 900-word limit

Harvard Business School MBA essay tips

There is one question for the HBS Class of 2026:

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?

The website provides the following advice as well: 

We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.

Before you begin to complete your application I have two suggestions for you:

  • Review Harvard’s criteria for admission , and its MBA Application Tips: Essay video .
  • Watch the embedded video on the case method at HBS.

This is a great essay question. It allows you to choose what you want the school to know about you without having to fit that information into a framework required by a question that doesn’t really align with your story. It also allows you to demonstrate judgment and communication skills, which are critical given Harvard’s residential culture , study groups, and case method. Finally, this essay is a chance for HBS to get to know you beyond your resume and the limited (and limiting) boxes. In fact, as Chad Losee says in his essay tip video, they want to get to know you through your essay. That’s the essay’s purpose.

Now THINK. What else – really and truly – do you want Harvard Business School to know about you? The HBS admissions committee has told you what they want to know in the other sections of the application. “What more” do you want the HBS readers to know?

Please note that your essay has to be additive. “What more” are the key words in the prompt. It shouldn’t be a resume in prose. And it shouldn’t be a series of vague generalities and assertions that would apply to many others. Finally, it can’t be a series of anecdotes with no meaning or significance associated with the experiences. It should reflect at least part of your unique story, the part that you want HBS to know. Finally, your essay should reflect your motivations, values, and dreams.

The answer to HBS’ question is not something I can give or even suggest to you in a blog post aimed at the many (for individual guidance, please see Accepted’s MBA Admissions Consulting ). It must be different for each of you. Again, refer to the HBS criteria, as you contemplate possible topics, but the options are infinite. A few possibilities:

  • Provide context for events described in the required elements.
  • Delve into your motivations for the decisions or commitments you have made.
  • Discuss experiences that shaped your dreams for the future, which might just benefit enormously from an HBS education (caveat: HBS doesn’t ask why you want to attend Harvard, so don’t make this a central theme of your essay).
  • Examine challenges you have faced. These could be personal challenges, or perhaps interpersonal challenges.
  • Envision something you would like to accomplish at HBS.
  • Provide more detail about an activity or commitment that is particularly important to you.

Please don’t limit yourself to these suggestions. I am offering them to stimulate your creativity, not to shut it down. 

If one thing is true, it is that HBS has valued concision. And, in today’s tweet- and sound-bite-driven world, it is requiring short responses in the other portions of the application. Don’t take this essay’s generous word limit as a license for verbosity. Make every word count, no pun intended.

A few cautions and warnings regarding this essay – it is NOT:

  • Stanford’s “what matters most to you and why?” essay
  • The kitchen sink in which you throw everything
  • An autobiography
  • A resume in prose or a rehash of your transcript and honors
  • An ode to the awesomeness of Harvard (The admissions committee doesn’t need you to tell them they have a great institution that you would be honored to attend. They’ve heard it before.)

For expert guidance on your HBS application, check out Accepted’s  MBA Application Packages , which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the HBS application. Looking to score some scholarship money while you’re at it? Accepted’s clients received over $3.5 million dollars in scholarship offers in the most recent application cycle.  Explore our services  for more information on how Accepted can help you get into HBS.

Harvard Business School 2023-24 application deadlines

Source: HBS website

* Applications must be submitted online by 12 noon Boston time.

***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***

HBS class profile [Class of 2024]

Here’s a look at HBS’s Class of 2024 taken from the  Harvard Business School website :

Number of applications:  8264

Enrolled:  1,015

Countries represented:  

  • United States: 62%
  • Mexico, Central & South America: 5%
  • Middle East: 3%
  • Oceania: 1%

Women:  46%

International:  38%

US minorities:  52%

Average GPA:  3.70

Average years work experience:  5.0

Percent of class taking GMAT:  74%

  • Verbal range: 29– 51
  • Quantitative range: 34 – 51
  • Total range: 540–790
  • Median verbal: 42
  • Median quantitative: 48
  • Median total : 730

Percent of class taking GRE:  30%

  • Verbal range: 147 – 170
  • Quantitative range: 150–170
  • Median verbal: 163
  • Median quantitative: 163

Breakdown of undergraduate majors (137 domestic universities and 158 international universities)

Breakdown of pre-mba industries, sample harvard business school essays from admitted hbs students.

Even after having read hundreds of HBS essays, I still found it worthwhile to read  The 2020 Harbus MBA Essay Guide . For applicants who have preconceived notions of what an admissible essay should be,  The Essay Guide  will open your eyes to 22 successful and different responses. For applicants who are wondering how on earth they should approach their essay, the guide will give them 22 different answers. 

For me it reinforced several valuable lessons:

  • There really is no template for a successful HBS essay. The diversity of essays that are acceptable — no pun intended, well maybe a little intended — to Harvard Business School is striking.  
  • The commitment of most of the authors to telling  their  story is also noteworthy. Several said they asked friends to confirm that the essay really mirrors them. Others wrote that they were determined that the essay present an authentic portrait of them.
  • Most of the students wrote the essay over the course of months. Give yourself time to draft a persuasive, introspective, and authentic essay. 

Harvard’s question is a fantastic one. It is a probing one. And it requires you to probe yourself so that you can provide a profound reflection of you as you tell the HBS admissions committee what you really want them to know.

A successful Harvard Business School application essay [2020]

This sample essay is from  The Harbus MBA Essay Guide  and is reprinted with permission from  Harbus .  

Essay: Vulnerable But Invincible 

Home country: USA

Previous industry: Consulting

Analysis: The author takes a rather bold approach here. She uses the essay to point to the times when she showed vulnerability in the workplace. This essay presents a strong example of how an essay can be used to complement different aspects of your personality – while resume and application can be used to highlight accomplishments, the essay has been intelligently used to show author’s capacity to be strong enough to talk about situations when she broke down in a professional capacity, but took lessons from each of these situations and employed them to her strength.

I have cried exactly four times at work.

The first time was early in my career. It was 2AM and I was lying in bed struggling with an Excel model. An overachiever my whole life, I was wholly unused to the feelings of inadequacy and incompetence bubbling up inside me. After clicking through dozens of Excel forums with still no right answer, I gave up and cried myself to sleep, vowing to never let myself feel so incapable again.

The second time was a year and a half later. I was unsatisfied with my project and role, and questioning my decision to be a consultant. That uncertainty must have been apparent to everyone, because my manager pulled me aside and bluntly told me that my attitude was affecting the entire team. I cried in front of him, devastated that I had let my doubts bleed into my work.

The third time was just a year ago. I was overseeing a process redesign and struggling to balance the many changes needed. The Partner called me into his office to say, “I’m worried our process is not as sound as it needs to be. I need to know that you care about this as much as I do.” I nodded, say that I do, then ran to the bathroom to cry, overwhelmed by how much change I knew was coming.

Each of the first three times was driven by frustration and anger. I had tamped down my emotions to the point where they overwhelmed me. Particularly as a young woman in business, I never wanted to be viewed as a stereotype or incapable. I was ashamed of my tears and terrified at how others would perceive me.

However, each of those experiences proved to be a turning point. My tears motivated me to ask for help when I needed it, pushed me to restructure my mindset and approach, and gave me a moment to breathe, rebalance, and reprioritize. In each case, my work was better for it. I have also used each experience as a learning moment. Each time I asked myself what decisions led me to the point of tears, and what I could have done differently. I could have raised my hand earlier for help, initiated a conversation with my manager about my uncertainty and dissatisfaction, or involved the Partner more actively in the planning and prioritization. While I can’t change the past, I can learn from it, and am more considerate of such outcomes when I make these decisions today.

Emotions are an inevitable part of the human experience, and as such, an inevitable part of the office. Rather than keeping them at bay, I have begun embracing my emotions to be a better manager and leader, and build more authentic connections. As a manager, I understand my team as people, not just colleagues. I have regular conversations with each of my team members to understand their individual goals and motivations, so I can take those into consideration when building the team structure and delegating responsibilities. As a leader, I invest in traditions and events that foster camaraderie and high morale. I am the proud founder of [NAME OF OFFICE PROGRAM] in the office, a beloved tradition that is now an integral part of the office and that I hope will continue even after I leave.

The fourth time I cried was at the rollout of a process redesign I oversaw. This was our first time demo-ing the new process end-to-end for the rest of the team. As the demo progressed, I felt the team’s energy turn from nervous anticipation to dawning excitement, and finally to sheer awe and amazement. As the demo ended, one of my teammates turned to me, and asked in a hushed voice, “Are you crying?” And I was. This time, I cried not with frustration or anger. This time, I cried with joy for our success and with pride for my team. Embracing my emotions allowed me to show that tears are not shameful and don’t need to be hidden in the workplace. I am no longer ashamed of my tears, and I am proud to demonstrate that a strong leader can be pragmatic and emotional all at once.

Word count: 705

Author’s comment:

“I started early on my essay (~ 3 months before the submission deadline) because it was important to me to iterate and be thoughtful. I started by laying out potential themes and stories for my essay, and while there are a lot of similarities, the core message changed quite a bit. Don’t get too attached to any one story or theme and allow yourself to let go of a draft if it’s not the right one. What I found most helpful was having 2-3 close friends that I trust wholeheartedly review multiple drafts, because they were able to provide continuous feedback and help me combine pieces from multiple drafts. None of them had ever gone to or applied to business school, but were experienced in writing and communication (e.g. one is a screenwriter) which helped me focus on communicating MY story more so than what is the story that HBS Admissions would most like.”

Are you considering applying to business school?

We have the resources to help you navigate the options and make the right choice for you:

  • M7 MBA Programs: Everything You Need to Know
  • What It Takes to Get Accepted to HBS, Stanford GSB, and Wharton

Is HBS at the top of your wish list?

Get the competitive edge with HBS-specific advice and inside information:

  • “I Wish the Admissions Committee Had Asked Me…” : How to answer open-ended MBA essay questions
  • What Harvard Business School Is Looking For: Engaged Community Citizenship
  • What Harvard Business School Is Looking For: Analytical Aptitude and Appetite
  • What Harvard Business School Is Looking For: The Habit of Leadership
  • 7 Important Tips for Your HBS Post-Interview Reflection

Hear directly from Harvard alumni in these inspiring blog posts:

  • An MBA Success Story Reflects on His HBS Experience, 7 Years Later, podcast Episode 419
  • A Harvard MBA’s Experience & Advice on Writing the Perfect Essay, podcast Episode 375
  • Entrepreneurship at HBS: How Stride Will Help You Fund Your Future, podcast Episode 341
  • How to Leverage an HBS Education: The Story of LeverEdge, podcast Episode 313
  • Ida Valentine: Investment Banker, Inspirational Speaker, HBS 2021, podcast Episode 311
  • The Journey from India to Harvard MBA, podcast Episode 220

Do you need help gaining admission to HBS or any other top MBA program? That’s what we do! Explore our MBA Admissions Consulting Services and work one-on-one with an experienced admissions advisor who will help you GET ACCEPTED.

Kelly Wilson admissions expert headshot

As the former executive director of admissions at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School and assistant dean of admissions at Georgetown’s McDonough School and the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School, Kelly Wilson has 23 years’ experience overseeing admissions committees and has reviewed more than 38,000 applications for the MBA and master’s programs in management of information systems, computational finance, business analytics, and product management.   Want Kelly to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!

Related Resources:

  • What Is Harvard Business School Looking For?
  • “I Wish the Admissions Committee Had Asked Me…”
  • Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One

About Us Press Room Contact Us Podcast Accepted Blog Privacy Policy Website Terms of Use Disclaimer Client Terms of Service

Accepted 1171 S. Robertson Blvd. #140 Los Angeles CA 90035 +1 (310) 815-9553 © 2022 Accepted

Stamp of AIGAC Excellence

Personal MBA Coach

How to Write an MBA Application Essay That Stands Out

best mba application essays

Personal MBA Coach publishes detailed tips on how to approach most of the top MBA application questions (download our e-book on how to approach the M7 essays ). Of course, Personal MBA Coach clients received details and customized advice through our  comprehensive packages , but some key essay writing and editing basics hold true regardless of the essay question or school. To share these with you, Personal MBA Coach’s team, including former M7 admissions directors and Ivy-League-educated editors compiled this guide to successful MBA essay writing .

Effective MBA admissions essays can be different from any other type of prose. Knowing how to approach them can significantly boost your chances of MBA application success. Before going into specific essay writing tips, let’s look at the most common types of MBA essays. Understanding the type of MBA essay (and their ultimate purpose) will help you determine which personal and professional examples are most relevant, what tone you should choose, and how you can use the question to demonstrate your candidacy in the best light (and ultimately get into your dream school).

Types of MBA Essays

Goals essay.

The purpose of this type of MBA application essay is to discuss your post-MBA career goals and prove that you need an MBA to achieve them. In a goals essay, depending on the word limit, you may share some career highlights as well as your specific short-term and long-term goals. For instance, one of the Wharton MBA admissions essays invites MBA candidates to lay out their professional aspirations. When drafting this type of essay, make sure to be specific and focused. While no one expects you to commit to these goals post-MBA, you should demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have thought about your career goals and determined that an MBA is the ideal steppingstone on your path to achieve them.

Personal Story Essay

Varying in word count, this type of MBA application essay tends to be more personal. The main goal of a self-reflection essay is to get to know the real you. These essays can range from the 900-word, open-ended Harvard Business School MBA application essay to the 100-word questions Michigan Ross asks. Personal MBA Coach’s expert tip here is to stay true to yourself and consider your Personal Story. Do not write what you think the admissions committee wants to read. Write about your passions, values, failures—nothing is off limits. At the same time, you want to keep a positive mindset. If you are discussing your failure or something tragic that happened to you, make sure to present it as a story of growth. This is not a creative-writing contest—remember that you are writing your MBA application essay, and the main goal of this essay should be to convince the admissions committee that you will add a unique perspective in the classroom and on campus.

Contribution Essay

Leadership Essay

While evidence of leadership should be included in many different essay types, some MBA essays directly ask candidates about their leadership experience. Kellogg ’s first MBA essay is a classic example of this: “ Kellogg Leaders are primed to tackle today’s pressing concerns everywhere, from the boardroom to their neighborhoods. Tell us about a time in your life where you’ve needed a combination of skills to solve a problem or overcome a challenge. Which skills did you use? ” While it is great to show how you have led your peers, do not forget about humility. It is expected that your leadership style is still a work in progress. In fact, in some leadership essays, you will want to tell the reader how you wish to fine-tune your leadership style during your MBA.

Video Essay

Video essays are becoming increasingly popular among business schools’ admissions committees. For instance, Berkeley Haas introduced a video essay this year. Other schools, including MIT Sloan , have required a video essay for many years. Some schools, such as Chicago Booth , require a video essay for applicants offered an interview. The video essay is a completely different format, and unlike all the essay types above, this is the one where you should not overedit. A few bullet points in preparation are great; however, writing out the whole script will make you appear less natural. Video essays are rather more personal, so you want to come across as approachable and show that you would be great to have in the classroom. Appearing too rigid and rehearsed will hinder your chances.

A man smiling at his tablet

MBA Essay Writing Process

Now, let’s talk about the basics of the essay writing process. We advise our candidates to follow a 5-step process as they develop their application essays, leaving adequate time for each stage.

1. Brainstorm

Brainstorm each essay question one at a time. Now that early decision deadlines have passed, you are free to begin with the essay that seems easiest or comes most naturally to you, as your writing will improve throughout the process. In developing potential topics, consider your relevant strengths, experiences, and accomplishments: Choose those that bring the most to the table.

Before you begin to develop prose, outline the key points you hope to cover in a sequence that flows logically. Pay special attention to the length you will allot to each section of the essay.

Once you have a solid outline, begin to put together your first draft. At this stage, it is ok if your writing is not perfect. Most first drafts will be a bit longer than the final product, but make sure you have the substantive points in place and that they flow together well.

4. Edit and Edit Again

Editing is the most time-consuming part of the essay writing process, particularly if you have written too much in the initial draft. Be critical of what needs to be there and what does not, and make sure you remove extraneous or superfluous material. Fine-tune your writing to make sure that the structure, verbs, and vocabulary all serve to make your thinking clear. Avoid repetition and be concise.

And finally, proofread. If you are not great at spelling or grammar or even generally at writing, ask someone who is good at those things to read your essay. A fresh set of eyes is priceless for catching mistakes. Personal MBA Coach uses proofreaders for each MBA application for this reason.

best mba application essays

5 Tips for Writing a Successful MBA Essay

1) answer the essay question.

This seems like a no-brainer, but many candidates write beautiful essays that do not answer the essay question. Instead of writing what you want to show off, answer the question (or make sure that what you want to show off answers the question!). While we do advise thinking a bit outside of the box and considering the why behind an essay prompt ( what are they really trying to get at? ) first and foremost you must answer the question.

That is one reason recycling essay copy from one school to the other is often not a great idea: While it works sometimes for schools whose essay questions are nearly identical, most often it obscures the whole objective of answering the question. Good MBA essay editing should address this, refocusing the material. So, go through your copy and make sure the answer is in there. If you are using the essay you wrote for another school, make sure you tailor it to fit and answer the pertinent essay prompt.

2) Write Authentically

Do not write what you think admissions committee members want to read. There is no one perfect candidate profile. Instead, your uniqueness will be one of your greatest selling points. Your essays should paint a clear picture of who you are, what motivates you, and what you are passionate about—genuinely. Do not feel compelled to show how you fit the mold that seemingly makes up the “ideal” candidate. If you have no desire to run a non-profit, that is ok. If you are not motivated by improving the environment, do not pretend you are. Readers will see right through this, and you could end up doing more harm than good.

3) Look at the Application Comprehensively

Essays are just one part of the overall MBA application. In addition to submitting a resume (unsure how to write an MBA resume? Check out these tips ), you fill out a detailed application whose value you should use in every detail. Many schools require short essays and short answer questions and video essays as well. In addition, you have letters of recommendation . Those also should be used to your advantage to include material you may not have other opportunity or space to talk about. This means there are other places to list and highlight items such as extracurricular activities.

There is no need—or space—to try to fit this all into your essays: Focus on a few chosen facets of your passions or accomplishments to answer the essay questions and use other material in other places.

best mba application essays

4) Keep Your Language Approachable

You should assume that terms you regularly discuss at the office—what is commonly referred to as industry jargon—are foreign to others, including admissions committee members, and they do not want to have to wade through it, trying to understand, as if it were a foreign language.

Harvard Business School has gone so far as to specifically ask candidates to not use jargon, both in the MBA application essay and the short answer questions. The best MBA essay editing will eliminate jargony language entirely and translate to readily understandable English, which helps convey what you are talking about and who you are. Particularly when it comes to showing off an accomplishment or how you added value in a business scenario, you want to make sure that technical language does not get in the way and impede your ability to clearly communicate what you did. On some occasions, it may be beneficial to ask a loved one to read your essay, though it is not always the best choice—check out this blog for a comprehensive breakdown of when it is a good idea to involve your friends and family in your MBA journey.

5)  Limit Flowery Prose

Similarly, we often read complex flowery prose. By flowery we mean prose that is overly ornate, rambling, and verbose. While showing off your writing style may be the point when applying to a writer’s program, when applying to business school you should write well but in a practical and straightforward manner. Most schools want direct, substantial, detailed answers to the questions—not rambling prose. Everyone, from your grandmother to a professor of microfinance, should be able to understand your essays.

In sum, your essays should convey why you are someone others would want to study with, learn from, and eventually be inspired by. That type of person is human and down to earth. Your essays should show this.

Finally, be concise. Write to the word count. If you are having difficulty making a choice between two options, you can vet that choice, but once you have chosen your topic, during the outline process eliminate material that is not needed. It is very hard to cut 200 words from a 500-word essay and not change the overall intended impact and meaning. Trimming 30 words is one thing—though it is very time-consuming, it can be done artfully without losing much—but you cannot cut an essay in half and not lose substance that should be included.

Write Successful MBA Essays With Personal MBA Coach

Not sure how to articulate your story through various types of essays? Personal MBA Coach is here to guide you through writing your best MBA application essays! Check out our Comprehensive Packages to see how we can help!

best mba application essays

You also may like these other blog articles:

best mba application essays

Find out why we are consistently ranked #1. Sign up for a 30-minute consultation today!

best mba application essays

We have over 200 5 Star Reviews. Find out WHY!

schedule consultation

avatar

  • E-mail & Password
  • Notification Settings
  • Global Settings
  • Applicant profile
  • Update status
  • My GMAT info
  • --> My Education -->