10 of the Best MBA Programs

essays to mba

Just 20 years ago, a bachelor’s degree was enough to compete in the job market. Despite the rising costs of tuition, a bachelor’s degree doesn’t hold the same value as more and more people are getting them. This is why many people are pushing for a master’s degree. Those with a master’s will make more money in their lifetimes than one with a bachelor’s. If you’re considering a graduate degree in business, take a look at the 10 best MBA programs.

The gold standard of higher education, Harvard is the best business school in the country, but it’s notoriously difficult to get into. However, getting in is only half the battle. Harvard is a difficult and expensive college. Once you make it through you’ll have the best MBA you can get.

essays to mba

Cornell consistently makes it in the top 10 business schools every year. Located in Ithica, NY, Cornell is a great option to get your MBA. For those unwilling to move, they offer an online program through their extension school. Because of this, Cornell should be on your list of schools to get your MBA.

essays to mba

University of Chicago

Booth business school at the University of Chicago is a great option for those who love urban city life. Booth is in a relatively safer area of the city and is located close to Lake Michigan. Sometimes, the deciding factor in getting your MBA is the location of the school which is why this program attracts great people.

essays to mba

University of Pennsylvania

Wharton business school is known for its high profile alumni and its excellent curriculum. Located at the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton attracts people from all over the world and for a good reason. The connections made there can resort to high profile careers and even positions at startups and getting the connection to start your own company.

essays to mba

Stanford has some of the most well-known alumni in the MBA industry. Many people choose to go to Stanford for the quality education and the sunny California location. However, many also choose to go for the connections you can make. If you’re looking to get into the startup industry this is the place to go.

essays to mba

University of Texas – Austin

While UTA isn’t as popular as Harvard, it’s one of the best options for business schools. Austin has a thriving startup culture and there are plenty of connections to be made there. The best part is the affordable tuition rate. It’s about half the price of other business schools.

essays to mba

Columbia University

Columbia is another one of those business schools that always makes it in the top 10. Based in New York, Columbia attracts worldwide talent every year. The program is highly competitive due to the number of applicants but don’t let that stop you from applying. After all, you could get in.

essays to mba

Duke University

Duke is also a well-known business school located in North Carolina. Many alumni leave the school highly well trained, and due to the competitive nature of the curriculum, you can expect to leave this school ready to enter the job market. Duke also has a fantastic alumni program.

essays to mba

University of Michigan

U of M is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their business school has made it in the top 10 several years in a row, and they always make the top 20. Ann Arbor is a lovely college town with plenty of chances to network and make connections to benefit your future.

essays to mba

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT is a school that everyone instantly recognizes. For those who are seeking an MBA in the technology field, MIT is the place to go. Like Harvard, MIT is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and because of this there are plenty of opportunities to network. MIT has a tough curriculum but it will prepare you for the job market.

essays to mba


essays to mba


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Mba essay samples by school.

Click on a school logo to see samples of real essays that helped ARINGO clients get accepted to that school.

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Successful MBA Application Essays

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essays to mba

— Name: Stivaly Gomez GMAT Score: 660 GPA: 3.51 Undergraduate Institution: UT Austin Undergraduate Major: Biomedical Engineering Pre-MBA experience: Healthcare Technology Consulting and Product Management Number of years of experience pre-MBA: 7

Sponsored by Ivy Advisors : At Ivy Advisors, we believe in the applicant and we propel that applicant with the best version of their authentic selves. With this philosophy, we have helped hundreds of people across backgrounds and styles land at their top business schools.

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Creating something from nothing when i moved to the us.

“Stivaly, the facts can’t be changed. You got an F on your assignment because you didn’t turn it in.”

As I heard these words, I stood next to Ms. Santiago, my 11th-grade History teacher, in shock. I had just arrived in Florida from Venezuela a few weeks before and was still learning the language. This was one of the most transformational moments of my life. By failing, I had the space to reflect on what I had done wrong, and on the lesson that my grandmothers, aunts, and mom had passed on to me—to be strong and unafraid of making mistakes, because mistakes lead to blazing new trails.

My mother, inspired by her mother’s strength, moved away from her home and became the first in her family to earn a degree in Computer Engineering, a degree uncommon for the women in Venezuela in the 1980s. She started her own computer engineering business in Ciudad Ojeda, a city she had never lived in before. In less than 10 years and after a roller coaster of failures and successes, she became one of the city’s most successful entrepreneurs and a role model for other women starting their own ventures. My mother was always vocal about taking risks and learning through setbacks.

Throughout my college years, I leveraged my insights from my experience of emigrating from another country to tutor other students who were going through a similar transition.

Her determination taught me to stand up for myself and follow my dreams regardless of the challenges. After that F in History, I was determined to formulate a plan of action to correct my actions. I sought out new friendships with my classmates to establish a support network. I set my fear of not speaking fluent English aside and dared to make mistakes out loud, because I knew I would learn more that way. I asked for clarifications from teachers and classmates any time I needed it. By the end of my junior year, I had become one of the top students in every one of my classes. I ended the year with a 4.0 GPA, leading to my admission to the Miami Dade Honors College and later to UT Austin’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. At UT, despite the initial culture shock of being one of just five women of color in my Biomedical Engineering class, I continued pushing myself forward to define a career path where I turned my aspirations into real opportunities. I successfully collaborated as a research assistant in Dr. Hugh Smyth’s pharmaceutics lab, and my team was recognized for developing one of the top 10 novel medical device prototypes in a competition of more than 50 devices.

My mother also taught me that striving for greatness came with an obligation to uplift those coming behind us. Throughout my college years, I leveraged my insights from my experience of emigrating from another country to tutor other students who were going through a similar transition.

Having recently emigrated from Venezuela, Mariana was struggling to stay motivated to continue to pursue dentistry, the career of her dreams. Mariana was working to pay for her studies, and was supporting her little brother at home by helping him with his homework. By working with her to build a collection of resources and connecting her with other tutors, students, and faculty who were aligned to life sciences careers, I helped her improve her grades and identify programs that would help her continue to pursue her degree. Now she is on her way to graduating as a general dentist and will be the first in her family to earn a doctoral degree.

Creating Something from Nothing in My Work Experience

As the only Latina in my starting group at Accenture, I made it a point to engage in retention and recruiting initiatives from day one and established the first professional development workshops for Hispanics in the DC office. Through a curriculum focused on building leadership, communication, and networking strategies, I created a platform to support our members and provide them with the tools to build a successful career path inside and outside of the company. This model became the footprint for leads that followed and a key piece to the value offerings provided by the DC office and other offices across the nation.

I joined Accenture to grow my career in the healthcare technology sector. However, the lack of opportunities and resources in the health sector in the federal space local to Washington DC forced me to build a network and career path from scratch. After various networking events and hundreds of emails, it only took one person, a managing director named Matt Farrell, to empathize with my passion for the impact I wanted have in the industry and the grit I had to pursue it. I was staffed on a life sciences project as the lead of the team tasked to create a cloud-based patient services application. Since then I have been positioned to lead projects and teams of experts to deliver on a set of client requirements despite having little to no experience with managing teams or launching products. Exceeding my clients’ expectations has earned us additional work for every project I have led. I have gained the trust of leaders in my practice and established my reputation, and now I am proud to participate in groundbreaking projects that only people with high recommendations could partake in.

I have gained the trust of leaders in my practice and established my reputation, and now I am proud to participate in groundbreaking projects that only people with high recommendations could partake in.

How HBS Will Help Me Build My Vision

My journey at Accenture has allowed me to fight for my passion: creating low-cost medical products that can be accessed by a wider population. This was important because I experienced first-hand how a lack of access to quality healthcare deteriorates a society—I lost my Aunt Marilu to cancer because she lived in a low-income community in Venezuela where she could not access effective treatments.

I aim to dedicate my life’s work to democratize low-cost innovative medical technologies from the US to hospitals across Latin America to improve the quality of care offered in the region. The portfolio of opportunities promoted by the HBS Health Care Initiative will expand my exposure to the sustainable alternatives I will use to address gaps in local and international healthcare systems.

Along with my husband, Jose Mena, who is also applying, I consider Harvard Business School to be my first choice because its focus on leadership. Being the originators of the case method, Harvard offers a unique environment for authentic leadership development where I will learn to be less self-critical, speak with assertiveness, and make tough decisions. Through HBS, I will engage in a collective endeavor to formalize my vision into a reality.


At Ivy Advisors, after working with hundreds of applicants with a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, we have developed a strong perspective on ‘how to draw out someone’s special spark’. When we engaged with Stivaly, it was very clear from the first interaction that she carried a certain spark, but it was deeply buried behind her fears of having a lower-than-average GMAT score. Her essay is the product of multiple coaching calls and sessions that helped her build a sense of self-confidence in her application so that she can proudly own who she really is beyond her stats and show -not just tell- the value she will add to the Harvard Business School.

At around 1100 words, this is a long essay. However, breaking the essay down into meaningful moments that shaped the applicant made the content much easier to read. The subtitles provided a quick way to transition from one story to another while still holding a central theme.

The average GMAT score of admitted students at HBS is around 730, while the average undergraduate GPA is around 3.7. With stats lower than average, Stivaly needed to show through other data points that she is committed to academic excellence and continues to be a competitive high performer in the workplace and an attractive candidate for MBA recruiters. With seven years of pre-MBA work experience (higher than the average 4.7 years), Stivaly was able to showcase, though her resume and other parts of her application, a rich professional background including three promotions and a number of other academic and professional recognitions. She let the other parts of her application speak to her professional achievements, so that she could make space for the essay to talk about her motivations behind her achievements.

Stivaly’s first story is about leadership and perseverance. First, she starts with a failure. Generally speaking, most people wouldn’t think about starting their Harvard Business School essay by admitting that they got an F at some time in their life. But Stivaly wanted to show who she really is – someone unafraid of failures

While she contextualizes the reason for her failure – moving to a new country and speaking a new language – she never made excuses for it. She owned her mistake and made sure that she would not repeat that mistake again. This sense of ownership demonstrates her not only her maturity at a young age, but also her action-oriented problem-solving character, something essential for leaders in the business world. In a few paragraphs, we get to see the go getter fighter who is clearly committed to excellence.

In addition, Stivaly showed that her pursuit of education was something that extended beyond herself or her grades. She made it clear that it was about continuing the legacy of the women in her family and she felt a sense of responsibility in carrying that legacy forward. She demonstrates that early sign of leadership by pointing to an example of how she used her experience as a way to help someone else who reflected a past version of her.

HBS’s mission is to “Educate Leaders who make a difference in the world”. With this first half of the essay, Stivaly made it clear that she follows a higher purpose. She showed that she was a leader and trailblazer in her community, who is persistent, action-oriented, and who was making a difference in a small way – in someone else’s life.

With this first half of the essay, Stivaly made it clear that she follows a higher purpose. She showed that she was a leader and trailblazer in her community, who is persistent, action-oriented, and who was making a difference in a small way – in someone else's life.

The second half of the essay goes on to expand on Stivaly’s consistent habit of perseverance and impact, as a professional, and at a later point in life. She uses her experience to reshape how organizations think and operate. Despite an unlucky start in Healthcare, she takes immediate action to reverse the situation. The personal connection to her area of impact – helping Latinos and working in Healthcare – show that she is vested in them and she will won’t stop finding ways to improve the status quo. Again, she makes it clear that the motivation behind these pursuits was something beyond herself.

In other words, Stivaly showed through her stories that she is a leader who makes a difference in the world.

Lastly, Stivaly effectively and succinctly articulates why HBS is the right place for her. She doesn’t make the mistake of running a laundry list of items that she will do at HBS (at Ivy Advisors, we see many applicants make that mistake). On the contrary, Stivaly is hyper focused on linking her purpose with the HBS learning environment.

At Ivy Advisors, we believe in the applicant and we propel that applicant with the best version of their authentic selves. With this philosophy, we have helped hundreds of people across backgrounds and styles land at their top business schools.

Lastly, at Ivy Advisors we care about preserving the authentic voice, tone, and style of the applicant. Although many will assert that this essay isn’t perfectly polished like an award-winning novel, we acknowledge and assert that we intentionally respected the style of the applicant. She is imperfect in many ways and her openness to admit it makes her the perfect candidate.

— • Country/State: China • Gender: Female • Ethnicity: Asian • GPA: N/A • GMAT: 710 • Undergrad Major: Mechanical Engineering • Age: 35 • Pre-MBA Industry: Automotive Manufacturing

Sponsored by ARLee Consulting : A boutique admissions consulting firm offering 1on1 coaching customized to help applicants GET ACCEPTED to their dream schools. Its Founder and Managing Director, Alex Ruiz Lee, an INSEAD MBA graduate, uses his experience as former HR Head at Samsung Electronics and Admissions Interviewer for INSEAD to guide you toward acceptance.


essays to mba


Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary (500 words). Three months ago, when I was looking for bridesmaids for my wedding, I reconnected with a friend. She told me: “You’re my role model. When I met you, I told myself to become a woman like you: strong-willed and open-minded”. But I was not always this way. I was born as an ethnic minority in a mountainous rural area of Southwest China, where poverty prevailed, and educational opportunities were rare for girls. As a kid, I asked my mom whether boys were smarter because teachers said so. But she, a college educated woman, told me they are not. She took me to Beijing for a short trip, encouraging me to cross those mountains that surrounded us. This inspired me to grow from a girl who led other girls to play wildly in playgrounds, to a woman capable of leading a global team to overcome the most challenging projects. In university, I was bullied because I could not speak English; at work, people questioned my ability to lead big projects because I am not a German male. It has been joyful to surmount these obstacles. I have even passed determination to others as when I coached another female peer to become a successful project leader or when I guided a team of inexperienced members to collaborate effectively.

These experiences shaped me to feel naturally comfortable in international settings and built up my ability to alleviate cultural conflicts.

I only started to work with Western coworkers when I was 25, and set my feet outside of China for the first time in 2013. Since then, numerous international trips to various countries grew my curiosity for different cultures. A strong affinity opened my heart to express respect and care for people from different backgrounds and to bridge us with universal values. As a result, not only am I currently enjoying life in a country as different to China as Germany, but I am married to a French, and I combine professional career in Germany with continuous trips to France. These experiences shaped me to feel naturally comfortable in international settings and built up my ability to alleviate cultural conflicts. Thomas - the best boss I have ever met – gave me complete autonomy to leverage my problem-solving skills in order to discover issues and search for solutions. I, therefore, created processes to close gaps in change management after I observed changes were not tracked systematically. I organised resources to modify designs inherited from past products in Germany when I saw they no longer fulfilled new requirements. As a female leader, I am always proving myself to be as capable as men. Therefore, I tend to carry others’ workload all by myself without asking for help when needed, which puts unnecessary pressure on myself. I am just concerned that I will be judged as a woman who cannot honour commitments. My husband is helping me to discover that it is okay to properly show my struggles and seek support. INSEAD Gender Initiatives will bring me to an international community of female leaders who have experiences to share on how to position ourselves in men-dominated industries.

Probably the most important essay in INSEAD’s application, this is not a straightforward strengths and weaknesses essay since INSEAD also wants applicants to describe themselves as a person and highlight the factors that influenced their development. Caroline was very concerned about her profile. By the time she applied, she was about to turn 35 whereas the age range of INSEAD’s class is 26 to 32. Her GMAT score was on par with INSEAD’s average (710), which as a Chinese applicant would be considered on the lower side. She also believed her international exposure was somewhat limited compared to a “typical” INSEAD student, and her industry (automotive manufacturing) was not the most attractive of industries for business schools.

With this in mind, we decided to approach the essay with simple language and with a very positive tone and vibe, while touching upon strengths that could be connected to all four INSEAD's admissions criteria...

Caroline begins the essay with a novelist style paragraph. She puts us in a recent situation where she is conversing with a friend who shares with us right away two of Caroline's strengths (“strong-willed and open-minded”). She closes the paragraph with a sentence (“But I was not always this way”) that makes us wonder about her personal story and want to keep reading. She then walks us through her childhood, and we understand that she does not come from an affluent background. She touches upon her mother influencing her to overcome obstacles as a kid and later as a project leader because of the simple fact of being a woman. In this paragraph, we understand she is connecting her strengths to two of the admissions criteria: Leadership Potential and Ability to Contribute. Then she moves on to a paragraph that highlights her international experiences to date and how these have made her be more adaptable in international settings, and curious, respectful and caring for other cultures. Her reference to being married to a French man is a clear indication of this, and it is very easy to derive from this that she definitely meets the International Motivation criterion.

She uses the next paragraph to emphasize her problem-solving skills and her ability to think outside the box. Both strengths are connected to the Academic Capacity criterion. She also briefly mentions that Thomas is the best boss she’s ever had and gave her a great degree of autonomy. This indicates that Thomas had a great influence in her development, and it also shows that she is an appreciative and grateful person, which could also be linked to the Ability to Contribute criterion. She concludes with one weakness. While she has chosen a cliché, I like her choice because this weakness doesn’t go against any of the admissions criteria nor against her career goals. Furthermore, she has approached it from the female angle, which makes it less of a cliché. In short, she has been able to capture the reader’s attention from the very beginning and has connected all her strengths to INSEAD’s four admissions criteria in a very clear and straightforward way, while keeping a very positive tone and vibe throughout the entire essay.

Disclaimer: With exception of the removal of identifying details, essays are reproduced as originally submitted in applications; any errors in submissions are maintained to preserve the integrity of the piece.

— Country/State: International GMAT: 740 GPA: 9+ on 10 Undergrad Major: Engineering Pre-MBA Industry: Consumer Goods

Sponsored by Admissions Gateway : Admissions Gateway has helped 800+ candidates, worldwide, achieve their dreams of gaining admission to the top MBA programs. We specialize in applying to the top-15 programs. Our candidates have a 97%+ success rate with scholarship awards of up to $150,000. Our founder is the #1 rated consultant on Poetsandquants.

essays to mba

Our life experiences shape our skills, perspective and help define our paths. Reflecting on my personal and professional journey, I would like to share three lessons which have strongly shaped my journey and outlook.

My first lesson is about people. I feel fortunate to have understood the enormous potential in empathizing and collaborating with individuals to achieve community success, organizational targets and personal goals.

Perhaps due to my father’s frequent job transfers, I grew-up as a reticent, lone worker, shying away from forging long-lasting relationships. While excelling academically, I skipped participating in anything at school that required dependence on other people. It was only at my undergraduate institution, [University] that I really started building relationships with my hostel-mates and exploring the various opportunities [University] offered.

However, soon dark realities came to the forefront when a final-year student committed suicide while my close friend, [Name], got sucked into a vortex of depression due to his poor academic performance. Deeply shaken, I resolved to address mental-health issues on campus and joined the Institute Counseling Service, comprising student volunteers, faculty and professional counselors who sought to provide emotional and academic help to students.

Driven to make a difference, I led 240 student volunteers, strengthened our mentorship program to identify students in need of professional help and organized Orientation Programs. To dispel the stigma associated with mental-health and build trust, we increased the approachability of counsellors by initiating hostel visits and collaborated with NGOs to use theatre and generate awareness. I personally mentored students and it was heartwarming to create an environment in which people were able to discuss their personal issues freely with me. While I gained friends for life, I realized there is no greater happiness than witnessing one’s mentee overcome difficulties and be successful! Listening to varied personal experiences inculcated empathy and fostered ability to forge strong interpersonal connections.

This experience stayed with me during my professional journey with [Consumer Goods Company]. Just out of college, I had to navigate union strikes, reconcile socio-political contexts and motivate 600+ unskilled workers, several years my senior to transform the quality performance of an $800M factory in a small town. Leveraging interpersonal skills, I understood employee concerns and created an experiential training program. Listening to them, educating them, sharing success and owning failures together, I immersed myself in the workforce environment, instilling a culture of innovation and change. Our efforts reaped dividends as we eliminated all consumer complaints and achieved the best-ever performance in quality metrics, securing [Consumer Goods Company] market-share and launching 24 premium product variants. Thus, I learnt to drive organizational change by harnessing people’s potential.

My second life lesson is about values. I feel long-term success can only be achieved if one has the character to stand by one’s principles during testing times.

At age-5, I recall accompanying my mother to court hearings to witness a long-drawn trial involving my father. Overtime, I understood how my father had been slapped with a fake harassment case because he refused to accept a bribe for professional favors. Standing by his principles, he was later acquitted emerging as my inspiration and teaching me values of honesty and integrity.

After 17 years, these values were tested. Early-on in my role as Quality Manager of [Consumer Goods Company] plant, consumer complaints for a particular defect inflicted 10% market-share losses in [Big City]. On probing, I realized that we had overlooked an important data trend during manufacturing that could have averted the disaster. While corporate auditors were preparing a report attributing the occurrence of defect to chance, I presented the true picture, taking full responsibility. It was a difficult decision as our factory had already lost credibility prior to my joining. Our General Manager intervened to manage the crisis and while recognizing my ethics and courage, placed faith on my ability to redeem myself.

Motivated to prove myself, I worked incessantly with my team, ensuring that I drive systemic changes and build a culture of continuous improvement. Within one-year, we achieved benchmark performances, restoring faith in the unit/team. During our annual performance review, our unit was appreciated for data-integrity, reinforcing my belief in my value system.

The third lesson is about impact. I believe true success is achieved when people are guided by a desire to create sustainable impact and make a positive difference in society.

During a factory-visit, I engaged with our CEO, and advocated driving growth by monetizing [Consumer Goods Company] distribution network to service regional firms/startups. Intrigued, he inducted me into his office in the Trade Marketing and Distribution function in a strategic role, a move unheard for any non-MBA engineer. Initially, I engaged with product entrepreneurs to offer them [Consumer Goods Company] distribution for scaling-up. One case was [Company], a [City]-based startup that innovated on cost-effective sanitary napkins. We are helping them reach 60M consumers in [Country], a country where 75% women resort to unhygienic alternatives. Curious to understand their success, I engaged with the founder, [Name]. I realized [Name] was driven by a desire to positively impact the lives of rural women and this motivated him to innovate continuously.

Reflecting on this conversation, I identified how [Consumer Products Company] could play a larger role in adding to consumer-value and go beyond giving distribution access to CPG startups. If tech leaders such as Google, Microsoft could incubate technology startups, we needed to explore similar models in the CPG space. I formulated a strategic investor model to incubate and eventually acquire CPG startups, a first for an Indian CPG firm, and pitched it to senior leadership. They appreciated my vision of synergizing with startups, providing [Consumer Products Company] marketing expertise and product development insights to encourage product innovation, thereby creating an inorganic growth roadmap for [Consumer Products Company] vision of achieving $15B by 2030.

These lessons provide the foundation to succeed and define my professional ambitions. Going forward, I envision energizing the [Country] CPG startup ecosystem, stimulating innovation and strengthening symbiotic relationships with Corporations to deliver high social-impact products, creating sustainable value for 1.2B Indian consumers. While my experiences have created the primer, I see Harvard as the perfect catalyst to transform me into a change leader. Building on my life lessons, I can’t wait to engage with classmates who bring with them a wealth of global experiences and stories!

Analysis: In this essay, the author shares the three life lessons which have most strongly shaped his experiences and outlook. Each one brings forth a different side of his personality. The first focused on developing empathy and lasting relationships having mostly favored solo working up until his undergraduate days. The second lesson is built around personal family experiences that drove home the importance of standing up for his values: honesty and integrity. The third and final lesson drives home the author’s desire to achieve a lasting positive impact in his professional life, by fostering an internal culture of innovation, and championing start-ups in the Indian CPG industry.

Topic: The difficult part of an open-ended Harvard prompt is deciding what one wants to share. The writer shares the three life lessons which have strongly shaped his experiences and outlook. We think this is a great approach as the writer shows the admissions committee “who” he is and “what” his values and motivations are.

Each lesson brings forth a different side of his personality. The first focused on developing empathy and lasting relationships having mostly favored solo working up until his undergraduate days. The second lesson is built around personal family experiences that drove home the importance of standing up for his values: honesty and integrity. The final lesson drives home the author’s desire to achieve a lasting impact in his professional life, by fostering an internal culture of innovation, and championing start-ups in his country’s CPG industry.

Tone and readability: This essay does not have dramatic flair. Because that’s fine as flair is not everyone’s style and one should stick to his or her style! The writer comes across as someone who has reflected on his experiences and what is important to him. He also comes across as genuine and shows vulnerability as he goes along. There is a certain humility that comes of the page - someone who has accomplished a lot but is comfortable in his skin and able to share not only his achievements but also his failures.

Why this essay wins: We can see the candidate’s accomplishments in his resume and have heard from his recommenders. This essay wins because it allows us to answer the question:

“Would you want this person to be in class with you?”

— • Country/State: International • GPA: 3.32 • GMAT: 750 • Undergrad Major: Economics • Pre-MBA Industry: Non-profit

Sponsored by Ivy Groupe : Ivy Groupe is a boutique MBA admissions consulting company founded by Shaifali Aggarwal , a graduate of Harvard Business School. Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out. With this approach, she has successfully helped hundreds of applicants gain admission to top-tier MBA programs. Shaifali has been quoted/featured in US News, Business Insider, Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Economist, and The Muse for her expertise. Read our stellar testimonials / request a free consultation !

essays to mba

PROMPT: 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? (no word limit)

This essay was provided by the experts at Admissions Gateway .

I remember my hands trembling as I clenched the scissors, and my mother’s gorgeous locks fell to the ground − I was six years old. Compelled to quit her studies after marriage, my mother resumed her masters in [course] after ten stifling years. With my father’s solitary income going into tuition for my mother, sister and me, a proper haircut was a wasteful luxury. My parents shielded us from their struggles, but the gravity of our situation hit home as I cut my mother’s hair.

When my mother finally cleared her examinations, I expected things to change. Instead, she declined lucrative offers to join public-services, catering to marginalized populations through [country’s] public healthcare system. My parents unwavering desire to lead a life of meaning, fuelled my own. Over the course of my journey, I have carved my own path to making a difference – one of spreading my ideas and impact, beyond what I could accomplish alone. I would like to share how three transformative experiences, starting over a decade ago, have progressively shaped this lifelong approach.

At 13, I was devastated to see my sister’s tiny frame shake violently as she coughed from asthma. What affected me most was learning that we had all contributed to these respiratory problems, by making [city] the most polluted city in the world.

I refused to remain a silent spectator and started an environment club, [club], at school. Digging-up compost pits and conducting tree-plantation drives, our team explored every opportunity to make our premises greener. The efforts of our small 10-member team indicated to me the potential to spur larger change by motivating all 1500 students to step-up. Our idea to achieve this, by integrating environmental-awareness within our curriculum, was dismissed by the administration for lack of resources. Undeterred, I started writing applications to garner financial support, and within months, led our team to the first place in a national competition. The $15K we won infused both resources and enthusiasm to implement our eco-friendly curriculum.

Juggling my graduation-examinations and endless hours of organizing activities for the entire school, we grew [club] five-fold. Students stepped-up to expand our efforts, from transitioning our school to using solar energy to organizing large-scale zero-waste campaigns. ‘Exponential’ was no longer just a graph I studied, I could tangibly see my impact multiplying by mobilising individuals around me.

Eager to replicate our success beyond school, I initiated environmental workshops for children from urban-slums in [city].

“Boys don’t need to save money for dowry, do they not have to conserve environmental resources either?” asked 11-year old [name]. Half-way into my first workshop, my analogy of saving money to explain the concept of conserving environmental resources, had derailed my session-plan.

Having witnessed the consequences of gender-disparity in my own childhood I started my non-profit [non-profit], during college, to promote holistic life-skills education to uproot such evils. I was happiest spending weekends in community-centres and public-classrooms, with my team of student-volunteers, conducting activity-based workshops for hundreds of children. I vividly remember when, beaming with pride, [name] told me that she had saved enough money to buy her house. She not only grasped complex concepts of banking and savings, but acknowledged herself as a financially-independent female – albeit in a game of Monopoly!

By graduation, we grew to a 20-member team and reached 1,000+ children. However, once I moved to join Investment-Banking, our student-volunteer model disintegrated and fundraising for a full-time team seemed impossible. While struggling to sustain momentum, I saw a class-teacher enthusiastically taking initiative to support our program, during a workshop. Watching her, it struck me that scaling-up [non-profit] was not the only way to further impact.

pullquote align=left text="Over the course of my journey, I have carved my own path to making a difference – one of spreading my ideas and impact, beyond what I could accomplish alone."}

Restructuring our workshops into a comprehensive curriculum, we showcased it to the state academic department. Winning their support, we trained 100 public-school teachers and principals to deliver the program. Within two years, these teachers extended our program to 10,000 children and even co-opted their colleagues. Their efforts reaffirmed my conviction that enabling change-agents at a systemic-level could accelerate impact at scale.

To steer my journey in this direction, I decided to quit my investment-banking job in [country] and return to [country]. Forgoing the financial comfort I was finally providing my family weighed on me, but I chose to follow my heart. I joined [foundation], a philanthropy focused on driving systemic change to tangibly impact India’s education landscape.

Innovative, low-cost teaching-aids developed by [company], my [foundation] portfolio-organisation, drastically improved learning for children in rural classrooms. However, their low-monetization potential generated minimal funder interest, threatening their existence. Their question, “How will we serve these children, when we can barely stay afloat?” echoed my own struggles at [non-profit].

Collaborating with the [state] government, I helped [company] reduce costs through subsidies and extend their program to 40,000 students. I was leading large-scale projects with public systems at [foundation], but I realized that empowering social-enterprises such as [company] to drive systemic change could create ripple-effects throughout the ecosystem.

My ten-year-old self wouldn't believe just how far I have come – my hands no longer shake when I take decisive actions, whose outcomes I cannot always predict.

Today, non-profit social-enterprises in India fail to reach their potential, owing to lack of financial and strategic support - the largest remains 1/100th the size of its global peers. So, I took on the mandate to launch an Accelerator within [non-profit], to ensure this support, even though this meant leaving my team and starting out alone. My path was uphill, given [non-profit’s] strategic shift towards working directly with governments − the initiative was peripheral for every decision, be it budget-allocations or team-building.

The eagerness of portfolio-organizations in leveraging every support opportunity kept me going. Months of co-creating monetization strategies and facilitating government meetings paid off, in one instance, enabling immense expansion for the portfolio-organization to reach 800,000 children. Such successes helped evangelize our potential and we are now raising an independent fund to support 30 entrepreneurs to help transform education for 5M children.

My ten-year-old self wouldn’t believe just how far I have come – my hands no longer shake when I take decisive actions, whose outcomes I cannot always predict. Striving to continually widen my impact has helped me progress from empowering school-students to supporting social-entrepreneurs, towards enabling an entire ecosystem of social change-makers.

Battling one constant challenge throughout, that of inadequate resources, has highlighted how social-finance could be the ‘driving-force’ towards my goal. Most importantly, I have learnt that beyond individual efforts, by spearheading thought-leadership and global alliances, I can mobilize the entire ecosystem, catalyzing robust social-investment markets in India.

My friend [name] described how assimilating diverse perspectives through the case-method at HBS helped him understand nuances of business across cultures, while the vibrant community provided access to global networks. HBS equipped him to launch and grow his company across eight emerging economies, through partnerships with local entrepreneurs. Similarly, I am convinced that the ideas, experiences and relationships built at HBS will help me realize my vision where every [club], [non-profit] and [company] can go on to create the change it aspires to.

Provided by Ivy Groupe

What is most compelling is how through the three examples, the applicant demonstrates leadership, initiative, and impact at increasing levels throughout the essay, starting from a very young age.

The essay is engaging, right from the opening paragraph, when the applicant takes the reader directly to the scene as a six-year-old cutting her mother’s hair. The applicant provides important personal context with respect to the experiences that have shaped her perspective and values, “My parents unwavering desire to lead a life of meaning, fuelled my own.” This in turn, has influenced the applicant’s own desire to take action and “[carve her] own path to making a difference,” which is so clearly stated in the applicant’s thesis statement.

Throughout the essay, the applicant demonstrates her passion for giving back to the community as well as her impactful leadership and initiative.

Throughout the essay, the applicant demonstrates her passion for giving back to the community as well as her impactful leadership and initiative, first in school by starting an environmental club, then by launching a non-profit in college, and finally, by creating an accelerator within the non-profit that she joined. In doing so, she shows the reader how she went about implementing change and the ensuing impact that resulted. However, these successes have not been achieved without their share of challenges and obstacles (“battling inadequate resources”), and so what the reader comes away with is the applicant’s humility and humanness. Moreover, the story-telling is very smooth as the applicant does an excellent job of transitioning from one story to another.

As the essay concludes, the applicant comes full-circle, referencing the opening anecdote, “My ten-year-old self wouldn’t believe just how far I have come – my hands no longer shake when I take decisive actions, whose outcomes I cannot always predict.” The last paragraph is a concise but insightful conclusion that weaves in how the applicant has gotten to know Harvard Business School and how the MBA program will help her achieve her goals.

— • Gender: Female • GPA: 3.8 • GMAT: 710 • Undergrad Major: International Relations and Economics

Sponsored by ATLA.MBA : MBA Admissions Consultants: Best Results for Harvard, Stanford, Wharton.

essays to mba

“The birthing ward is to the right,” the woman explained through our translator pointing to a dark room with no electricity and six cots, three on each side. Flies swarmed throughout the open-air hospital. I was in Vilanculos, Mozambique with colleagues from the IFC. As the team responsible for monitoring the firm’s investment in a gas field joint venture (“JV”) with Sasol (a South African petrochemicals company), we had come for quarterly partner meetings. On this trip however, we had ventured out of Maputo to conduct a site visit of the gas processing plant, and a local hospital funded with its revenues. As we passed the hospital’s pharmacy we came to a leaking tank, water forming a muddy puddle beneath it. Our guide explained the water tank at the hospital had been broken for the past several months. Consequently any water that was needed had to be carried from the nearest borehole.

The previous week in Washington I had updated the valuation for the investment, worried about increasing capital expenditure and how it would impact IFC’s return. This hospital, with its dirt floors and lack of plumbing, put into question my preoccupation with the financials. It was shocking that a gas plant with multi-billion dollar sales agreements could not fund this $500 problem. I soon realized however, it was emblematic of a much larger issue: the complicated relationship between the project’s stakeholders, including the Government, local community and foreign investors.

The JV had gained “community” support through promises of economic growth and the construction of social infrastructure. Yet on our visit to Vilanculos, it was clear the local people had not significantly benefitted from the gas plant. They continued to eke out livelihoods the ways they always had and would for their foreseeable future. The Government’s healthy tax and royalty revenues were the project’s real drivers. These funds could have fixed the hospital; however, when it was told about the leaking tank, the Government claimed fixing the issue was not in its current budget. Just as I in my DC office had lost sight of the individuals who could benefit from the project’s lofty developmental goals, so too had the Government. To preserve the sustainability of the hospital, the JV partners were hesitant to crowd out government responsibility for this public resource with additional private funds. Unfortunately no constructive partnership had been reached between the Government and the providers of private capital to prevent these situations.

Through my work at Goldman Sachs and the IFC, I have developed a strong understanding of finance and firsthand experience of the core issues faced when investing internationally.

After returning to Washington, I worked to ensure the water tank was fixed and the beneficiaries of the development goals were not forgotten. First, I involved broader IFC resources, including a team specializing in strategizing and implementing community outreach. Second, we established a sub-committee to ensure greater accountability and alignment amongst all JV partners for these development initiatives. The water tank has since been fixed, however these broader issues involving the division of public and private responsibility are ongoing.

Through my work at Goldman Sachs and the IFC, I have developed a strong understanding of finance and firsthand experience of the core issues faced when investing internationally. Including when working in frontier markets rarely is monetary funding enough to ensure success on all fronts. IFC’s investment thesis for the Mozambique JV contained two broad objectives: financial and developmental. Without the engagement of a diverse group of stakeholders, including governments and local communities, and their expectation for sustainable returns—the developmental goal would remain unrealized.

My interest in emerging markets and the career ambitions it has fostered are deeply intertwined with my upbringing. My Father is British, and my parents used our resulting dual-citizenships as an excuse to travel. At university, I double majored in Economics and International Relations to further study the convergence of finance and geopolitics. While studying abroad in Shanghai and researching my thesis on foreign investment’s role in the economic growth of Western China, I became aware of my own biases. After receiving a poor grade on an essay I asked the professor how to improve. “You only took account the western point of view,” he said, “what about the Chinese”? I re-wrote the paper and learned to remember both sides. My Mother is an attorney who has successfully managed to run her own law firm and raise two daughters. From her role modeling I learned that I could turn these priorities into a career with significant impact.

To reach this goal will require me to combine the technical knowledge and experiences I have garnered thus far, with a deeper understanding and development of my leadership abilities.

Going forward, I plan to work in private equity within frontier markets and in the longer-term apply my knowledge to a role in international diplomacy. To reach this goal will require me to combine the technical knowledge and experiences I have garnered thus far, with a deeper understanding and development of my leadership abilities.

My most rewarding personal leadership experience has been serving as a mentor to Chason Pan, a first-generation college student at Baruch College who moved from China when he was 18. Chason wants to become an investment banker; however, when we first met he was culturally and experientially unprepared to compete for this position. At the beginning I was frustrated and unsure of the value I could add, as the hurdles to achieving this goal felt insurmountable. One day Chason mentioned a painting that had inspired him. As a fellow art lover, on a whim I suggested we go to the Met. While there his depth of knowledge surprised me. This day, leaving the confines of an office building and getting to see a different side of Chason, was the beginning of our common understanding and working relationship. After knowing Chason holistically, his challenges to achieving a finance internship did not seem as large. His intellect and disciplined work ethic would be an asset to any firm. We incorporated these attributes into his resume and cover letters. Finally, to address his obstacles, I pulled on my own experience recruiting, as well as my network of friends and colleagues, to provide him greater knowledge of the finance industry and the path to get there. After two years of working together, Chason successfully achieved an investment banking internship at JP Morgan last summer.

In business school, I want the opportunity to refine the leadership techniques I have learned though my work with Chason in order to apply them on a broader scale. Additionally, upon graduating I aim to possess a toolkit of strategies to effectively confront the macro issues I experienced in Mozambique—successfully coupling financial return with developmental sustainability.

Our mantra is a very custom program to deliver an essay that:

  • considers the candidate's specific competitive pool;
  • is integral to the unique positioning of the application;
  • demonstrates the applicant's potential to have positive impact;
  • shows authenticity, clarity of thought, and a considered self-awareness; and,
  • connects with the admissions committee reader.

— • Country/State: International • Gender: N/A • Ethnicity: N/A • GPA: 8.2/10 • GMAT: 750 • Undergrad Major: Engineering • Age: N/A • Pre-MBA Industry: E-commerce/Retail

Sponsored by The Jaffe Advantage : The Jaffe Advantage is a full service MBA Admissions Consultancy – with a strong belief in the power of storytelling. I have been advising prospective MBA candidates since 2010 and have helped multiple applicants gain entry to the top U.S. and European business schools.

essays to mba

Prompt: Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip and inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn?

Most [Nationality] women would remember their first lingerie shopping experience. It is hard to forget the experience of slipping into a dingy shop with your mother, getting eyed up by the male seller, buying without trial and rushing out before, God forbid, the world realizes you bought a bra.

Lingerie remains a taboo topic in [Country], and fashionable lingerie is considered especially risqué, with a ‘one-size, one-style – fits all’ mindset. Aiming to provide an uninhibited lingerie shopping experience, [Company’s] CEO entrusted me responsibility to make [Company] the largest lingerie player in [Country].

Our primary challenge was to create a transformational lingerie shopping experience in a conservative society. Women were apprehensive to share details and openly purchase lingerie, especially from an unknown start-up. I initiated a pan-India “Fit-for-all” campaign highlighting body diversity and the importance of well-fitting lingerie both for health and self-confidence. The campaign spanned 100+ micro-influencers and connected 5Mn+ women, enrolling 400K followers on social-media.

With [Company's] rapid growth, I focused on ensuring sustainability by building a service-oriented culture.

With traditional firms selling standard sizes this campaign helped identify unavailability of non-average sizes. I then led “Fit-athons’, measuring hundreds of women and built a fit recommendation engine. Collaborating with the Sourcing Head, my team standardised raw materials to ensure comfort and quality across 300+ sizes. To promote correct fit, we disseminated educational content at offline events and social-media.

Reaching women in underpenetrated, non-urban areas was challenging. We developed a strategy to build an e-commerce platform supported with retail stores. Targeting consumers through social-media/affiliates, we focussed on customer-experience across touchpoints – instructional website interface, quality checks, discrete delivery across 28k+ zip-codes and easy try-and-buy options. This increased consumer retention and boosted revenue to $[X]Mn/year.

Concentrating on offline expansion through a micro-markets approach, I identified cities with large addressable markets to open exclusive stores. Leveraging our USP as ‘fit experts’, we introduced consultation programs at our omni-channel outlets, employing virtual inventory exposure to provide the right fit across 10k+ styles. We improved offline accessibility through ~600 neighbourhood stores establishing [Company] in 10 cities with ~$[X]Mn in offline sales and the fastest breakeven for company stores.

With [Company’s] rapid growth, I focused on ensuring sustainability by building a service-oriented culture. Tracking consumer feedback; conducting weekly reviews, introducing soft-skills training and setting-up a NPS-linked appraisal process for 150+ employees, my team enabled 35% uptake in NPS.

Growing [Company] taught me to build brand salience through product differentiation. I learnt to step into the customer’s shoes and innovate by creating interactive, immersive experiences to overcome consumer hesitation. Building consumer loyalty highlighted the importance of product quality, and the need for an unobtrusive service-oriented culture.

Today, [company] serves 2Mn customers, is set to reach $[X]Mn revenue by 2020, and is growing into a women’s fashion brand with aim to expand into Asia-Pacific, the Middle-East and Africa. ___

This introduction immediately captured my attention. Not only is it humorous and engaging, but it establishes that the writer is about to embark on a story focused on leadership and change. Two of the most common mistakes I see candidates make are 1) beginning their essay with a sentence that essentially reiterates the question and 2) writing an introduction that is interesting but long-winded.

Admissions officers read application essays from morning to night. Anytime a candidate can provide a respite from the “ordinary” they are one step ahead. At the same time, it is important to ensure that the essay establishes its thesis early. In this case, the writer has done both by the third sentence.

After establishing context, the writer spends the rest of the essay focusing on her actions. She addresses four different sub-topics: establishing a value proposition based on fit; reaching women in rural areas through e-commerce, creating stores in micro-markets, and building a service oriented culture. Addressing different strategies allows the writer to showcase the variety and magnitude of her experience. She demonstrates her deep knowledge of marketing from e-commerce to customer experience to social media to the use of influencers. Business schools want to know that each of their students will bring a new perspective and point-of-view to the classroom. By using a leadership essay to demonstrate a deep understanding of marketing, the writer sets herself up as an expert who can add value to Kellogg both inside and outside the classroom.

While the essay asks about leadership, Kellogg is known for its focus on teamwork. The writer does an excellent job interweaving the two. She writes about collaborating with the Sourcing Head and she makes sure to credit her team for much of the work. The essay reflects the culture of the school by putting emphasis on working well with others.

Overall this is an excellent essay. However, as a third Party Admissions Consultant (I am reviewing this essay post submission) I can’t help but notice a few things I would have recommended changing. These aren’t show-stoppers, but they are important.

  • First, the solution doesn’t actually address the issue. The writer starts her essay by focusing on the fact that lingerie remains a taboo subject in her country. In order to provide an uninhibited shopping experience, it would be important for the writer to show how she changed the mindset of the consumer. Instead she focuses first and foremost on fit. While she does make reference to a “discreet delivery” in rural markets and writes about micro-influencers (who conceivably would be the ones making lingerie an acceptable subject) she never really addresses how she made lingerie acceptable. Had I been providing advice, I would have recommended that the writer explain how she used micro-influencers (or other tactics) to change the conversation in the country.
  • Second, the writer interchanges the use of “I” and “we.” While it is important to own the story in a leadership essay, there are other grammatical constructions that can be used. The writer could have used the words “our” or “we” only following a reference to the company or her team.
  • Finally, there is one grammatical error. She writes “[Company’s] CEO entrusted me responsibility to make…..” This should have been “[Company’s] CEO entrusted me to make ” or [Company’s] CEO entrusted me with the responsibility to make.” Though the writer is foreign, the essay is written in perfect English making this stand out as an error rather than a sentence written by a candidate whose second language is English. While one grammar mistake will not make or break an application, candidates should be extremely careful to proof their essays multiple times.

Overall this is an excellent approach to Kellogg’s leadership essay. Combined with her above-average academic credentials, I am not at all surprised to learn this candidate was admitted.

The Crimson's news and opinion teams—including writers, editors, photographers, and designers—were not involved in the production of this content.

2 MBA Admissions Essays That Worked

These outstanding MBA personal statements resulted in admissions offers.

2 MBA Essays That Worked

essays to mba

MBA admissions officials say they prefer personal statements that convey personality and demonstrate grit. (Getty Images)

There is no secret formula to writing a compelling personal statement for an MBA application, university admissions officials say.

The key, they say, is to write a statement that feels authentic and makes your case.

Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean for admissions at the Yale University School of Management , is wary of personal statements that tell dramatic stories and stretch the truth. He says he is not looking for students to have exotic experiences, but for evidence of resilience, introspection and initiative.

Yale's business school recruits students identified as unselfish leaders – those who strive to improve the circumstances of others and help themselves rather than those who exploit others for personal gain, DelMonico says.

"We are looking to bring in students who will be inclusive leaders and who will bring people together," DelMonico says.

William Rieth, former senior director with the Fox School of Business at Temple University , says applicants sometimes struggle to write a memorable personal statement, but being memorable is vital.

"Students need to remember their audience," he says. "Schools are reading thousands of essays."

He says a solid personal statement requires a "compelling story" and an honest writing voice. "It should reflect your personality and sound like you."

How to Write an MBA Application Essay: A Few Tips

MBA admissions experts say a business school application essay should offer a convincing argument about why a candidate belongs in an MBA program at that particular school.

Wayne Hutchison, managing director for the MBA program at Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business , urges prospective MBA students to explain their reasons for applying to B-school and to describe whatever incidents spurred their interest in graduate business education.

"In addition, applicants should discuss the skills and abilities they have that will translate to academic and professional success," Hutchison wrote in an email, noting that failing to include this information can lead admissions officers to question an MBA hopeful's competitiveness.

Aaron Burch, who earned his MBA degree from the University of Texas—Austin's McCombs School of Business , says MBA essays should address the following questions:

  • "What do you want to accomplish career-wise that either requires an MBA or will be accelerated by an MBA?"
  • "Why is this the exact point in your career where an MBA would be most impactful?"
  • "What about this particular school is especially important for your career plans?"
  • "How will you contribute?"

Burch, owner of – a website that provides information about shipping container houses – suggests that MBA students convey that they are at a point in their careers where they can "pivot without being pigeonholed" while having meaningful accomplishments, including "real responsibility."

It's also essential for MBA candidates to showcase what they have to offer a B-school, Burch wrote in an email. "You want to demonstrate that you're not just a taker and you want to add to the prestige and reputation of the school, add to the experience your future classmates will have, etc."

MBA alumni say it's crucial for prospective MBA students to describe how they intend to use an MBA .

"Admissions officers will want to understand your vision behind why an MBA might help you, so it's incumbent upon you to articulate the plan you have for yourself, and how their institution is going to help your journey," MBA degree recipient Taylor Constantine – the partner channel lead with Rain, a financial services company – wrote in an email.

Margo Bell, senior assistant director of admissions with Pepperdine University's Graziadio Business School in California, notes that MBA essays are influential factors in the MBA admissions process. Application essays help B-school admissions committees gauge the compatibility of a prospective student with the culture and values of the institution.

"As applicants begin to write their MBA applicant essays, it’s important for prospective students to share who they are as an individual," Bell wrote in an email. "The essay allows MBA admission officers to get a better understanding of who you are, what you wish to accomplish and why you deserve to be accepted."

Michal Strahilevitz, associate professor of marketing with St. Mary's College of California , advises MBA applicants to view the application essay as an opportunity to provide context for deficits in their admissions profile. "For example, if your undergraduate grades were not great because you worked full time to pay for school, write about it," Strahilevitz explained in an email.

What to Keep in Mind About MBA Essay Prompts

MBA admissions consultants note that business schools often have distinctive essay prompts, so it's important for applicants to tailor their essay to every school where they apply.

"Each school asks a specific question in the essay, and one of the most important things you can do as an applicant is to answer that question – not the question you wished we asked or the one you want to answer," DelMonico wrote in an email. "The various elements of the application fit together, and we’re looking to get very specific pieces of information from the essay. So please follow the essay instructions you’re given and don’t feel as though you need to or should make the essay broader in scope."

Barbara Coward, founder of the MBA 360° Admissions Consulting firm based in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, notes that the first step in the essay writing process should be meticulously reading the question prompt. Think about the question for a few days while going about routine tasks so that ideas can "marinate."

Coward says that once prospective students have decided what they'd like to write about, they should let the words flow without filtering them because too much self-editing at the beginning of the creative process can interfere with productivity. Revisions and tweaks can come after an applicant has fully expressed his or her ideas.

Admissions experts note that MBA hopefuls who are struggling to figure out how to describe themselves may want to ask friends and family for advice. Prospective MBA students can also gain self-awareness by keeping a diary or creating a storyboard of their life.

Mistakes to Avoid in MBA Admission Essays

Taking too long to express the main idea or central thesis of an essay is a no-no, Coward says. Applicants should directly respond to a question and ensure that their essay is easily understood by an admissions officer. "Keep in mind that somebody is not reading a novel," she says. "They're going to be glancing through."

Excessively verbose essays don't make a good impression, Coward adds. Applicants should respect word limits and be concise, because doing otherwise creates extra work for admissions officers under time pressure, she explains.

Two other errors to avoid in MBA essays, Coward says, are being monotonous or melodramatic . It's important to have an introductory sentence that strikes the right tone, she adds. "You're not trying to create drama, but you don't want to put the person to sleep either," Coward says.

Examples of Outstanding MBA Essays

Here are two MBA essays that made the cut. The first is from the Fox School of Business and the second is from Yale. These essays are annotated with comments that explain why the essays charmed admissions committees.

Searching for a business school? Get our complete rankings of Best Business Schools .

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How to Write a Powerful MBA Essay—With Examples

The MBA essay is critical to your business school application. Read our guide to writing the perfect MBA essay, with successful admit examples.

Posted August 17, 2023

essays to mba

Featuring Melanie E.

Finding Success as a Non-Traditional MBA Applicant

Tuesday, september 26.

11:00 PM UTC · 60 minutes

What is the MBA Essay?

The MBA admissions essay.

Those words alone are enough to make most MBA candidates run screaming. Writing in general is hard enough. Writing about why you want an MBA? Your short-term goals and career aspirations? What matters to you most, and why? Forget it.

Of course, you still have to write these essays.

The MBA essay is perhaps  the most important part of the business school application. (It's also getting more and more important by the day, with some business schools moving away from traditional, quantitative measuring sticks, like the GMAT and the GRE.) Every other part of the application — your GPA, your test scores, your letters of recommendation — are quantified, cut and dried, or out of your control. The essay is your chance to show up as a fully realized MBA candidate, with hopes, dreams, and vulnerabilities. Admissions committees are not simply assessing your candidacy as a future leader — they're looking to admit human beings. That's where the MBA applicant essays come in.

That being the case, rather than being intimidated by it, treat the essay like the opportunity that it is — the chance for you to highlight your unique, iridescent self; the only moment in the MBA admissions process (prior to the interview) when you can speak directly to the admissions officers; the time when you'll show them who you really are. It's not easy to write something that will do that, of course, but with the tips and tricks in this guide, and some help from one of Leland's vetted, world-class admissions coaches, we know you can do it. Give the essay the time, attention, and respect it deserves, and you'll be on your way to an offer of admission at your dream school.

Without further ado, let's dive in!

Free MBA Essay Guide

Enter your email in the form below to receive our FREE MBA Essay Guide. This guide breaks down a system to help you brainstorm ideas, create structured outlines, write powerful essays, and polish them into a finished product.

How Long Will My MBA Essay Take?

First thing's first: let's talk about timing.

The MBA application is a behemoth; between exams, resumes, gathering your official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and the applications themselves, there's a lot to juggle. That being the case, we suggest you give yourself ample time to draft, write, and revise your essays. The last thing you want is to be rushed to the finish line.

So, give yourself  at least three months to write your MBA essays. That should allow you ample time to draft, write, and edit. For more information on timing your entire b-school application, click here for  A Comprehensive MBA Application Timeline--With Chart .

Now, on to the critical question:

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What Makes a Great MBA Essay?

At the highest level, the answer is the one that is truest to you. The whole point of these essays is to shine through as an authentic, vibrant human being, so the best essays are the ones that cut through the clutter, and allow you do to that.

Which begs the question — how  do you cut through the clutter and shine through as a vibrant human being? Here are four critical tips to follow as you begin thinking about your essays.

1. Answer the Question

This one sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many applicants launch into their story, get carried away, and forget to answer the question. Follow the prompt, and answer the question the admissions committee has asked you. Those prompts can actually be very useful when writing your essays — it's a great deal harder to write when you have no guidance or guardrails. With the MBA essays, you have a very specific question you need to answer. So answer it!

2. Be Specific

Another mistake some MBA applicants make is to stay at a high level in their essays, keeping their writing abstract and therefore inaccessible to the admissions committee. If at any point, an admissions officer could replace your name with the name of another applicant, then your essay isn't getting deep enough. It's not enough, for instance, to say that you suffered adversity in high school, or that you really, really want a Wharton MBA. You need to explain, in detail, the adversity you faced, and give concrete and unique reasons why you think Wharton is the right program for you. The best essays offer hyper-specific examples and anecdotes, with details and anecdotes that no other candidate could bring to the table. To get those anecdotes, we recommend using the STAR template, as explained below:

  • Situation : What was the situation you were facing? Where were you? How old were you? If you were in a professional role during this anecdote, what was the role, and how long had you been in it? If you were volunteering, at what organization? How long had you been volunteering there? Why did you start? Offer all the relevant information that the admissions readers will need to understand your story.
  • Task : What was the task at hand? What went wrong? In your professional role, what was the challenge you faced? In that volunteering experience, what were the hurdles you had to overcome? You can't have a good story without conflict or tension, so after you set up the anecdote, explain what that conflict or tension was (and remember, be specific!).
  • Action : What was the action you took to resolve the problem? What did you have to do to fix that issue at work? How did you clear that hurdle in your volunteer experience? Again, be specific about how you came through on the other side of that conflict/tension — and while you're doing it, highlight your leadership capabilities as much as possible! Remember that top MBA programs are looking for future leaders who can assess a situation and decisively take action. (We'll say a bit more about this below, in the Personal Statement section.
  • Result : What was the result of your action? If you were facing a growth problem at work, were you able to increase sales? If so, by what percentage? If you were advocating for diversity and inclusion at your local charity, what new programs did you implement to help with that effort, and what was the enrollment like in those new programs? Detail what happened in your anecdote with as much specificity as possible — and quantify, quantify, quantify!

Get Vulnerable

Most MBA admissions essay prompts are written with the goal of getting to know as much about you as possible in the shortest number of words. To do that, you're going to have to share real things from your life — to get personal, intimate, and vulnerable. Do not shy away from this. If you're starting to get emotional during the reflection, drafting, and writing process, good — that means you're on the right track. Keep going. Pro tip: If it’s making you cry, it will make them cry. Another good rule of thumb is to put something real and true on the table. Admissions officers have to read literally thousands of applications from thoroughly qualified individuals, some of whom might come from similar roles to yours, with letters of recommendation from equally impressive supervisors. In order to cut through that noise, you'll have to share something honest. If you're doing it right, this can feel risky. At some point, you’ll likely think to yourself: “Can I say that?” The answer is: “Yes.” Of course, there is a line, you don’t want to be crass or offensive but err on the side of being open and authentic. The very worst thing you can do is be overly cautious, and write something you think will please the admissions committee. These poor people have to read thousands of essays. If yours is just like everyone else’s, they’ll fall asleep. Don’t let that happen. Wake them up by putting yourself —your true, bright, vibrant, quirky self—on the page.

4. Don't Exaggerate

Finally, do not exaggerate, over-inflate, or lie. This goes without saying, but admissions committees are looking for honest candidates. The surest way to get rejected is to lie about something. (Business schools do a background check on you before you're properly admitted, so they will find out.) Don't be the person who over-inflates on their essays, then has their offer letter rescinded.

The Types of MBA Essays

All right — since we've covered high-level approaches to the MBA essays, it's time to dig into the various types.

There are three general categories of MBA essays you'll see across the board.

1. Personal Statement

These questions ask you to offer up something sincere about yourself. They'll often touch on such things as your values and your character. In these, you'll want to be as authentic as possible, while also highlighting attributes like leadership, intellectual vitality, and teamwork, that business schools are looking for. Here are a few examples of personal statement essays:

  • 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? (HBS)
  • What matters most to you, and why? (Stanford GSB)

2. Why an MBA/Why This School

The next category of essays is the "Why an MBA" / "Why This School" set.

In these, schools first want to hear about how an MBA will fit into your career, both short and long term. Top MBA programs are looking for candidates who will: first of all, be gainfully employed upon graduating, second of all, have an illustrious career that will make their institution look good and encourage future generations of applicants to apply, and third, be consistent and generous donors. That being the case, they want to know about your career trajectory, and how an MBA will fit into it.

Pro tip: Here, you want to be ambitious and inspiring in laying out your future career, but not naïve. Walk the line between shooting for the stars and sounding dreamlike and uninformed.

In this set of questions, you'll also encounter questions geared at figuring out why you would want to attend a specific school. MBA programs want to know that you're serious about attending their school — yield, or the percentage of admitted candidates who accept their offers of admission, is an important metric for them — but they also want to envision how you'll contribute to their admitted class. What will you uniquely bring to the table, the things that you'll do that the other candidates wouldn’t be able to offer?

We've heard former deans of business schools say that, in choosing a class, they're curating a world-class dinner party, and that each person invited to the dinner party has to bring something different. What will you bring to the dinner party?

Pro tip: To demonstrate that you've done your research, and to help the admissions committee envision you in their program, indicate which classes you might take when earning your MBA and why, which professors you might hope to study with, and in which clubs you might participate.

Here are a few examples of "why MBA / why this school" essays:

  • How is a Columbia MBA going to help you? (Columbia)
  • What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (Wharton)
  • Why Stanford? Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them. (Stanford GSB)

3. Behavioral/Other

Finally, most other essays will either be behavioral, asking you about experiences, traits, strengths, weaknesses, and achievements. There's a wide variety of topics here, but all the guidelines from above apply, with the final note to always prioritize authenticity (as mentioned in the Personal Statement section) and leadership ability (remember, business schools are choosing future leaders). Here are a few examples of behavioral/other essays:

  • Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (Yale SOM)
  • Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (Columbia)
  • Think about times you’ve created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others? (Stanford GSB)

Top MBA Program Essay Prompts (Updated 2022)

To help you get started, we've compiled the required prompts from a few top MBA programs below:

1. Harvard Business School (HBS)

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? (900 words)

For more information, visit A Guide to the HBS Essay .

2. Stanford Graduate School of Business

What matters to you most, and why? (650 words)

Why Stanford? (400 words)

Read What Matters Most When Writing the GSB Essays.

How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals? You might consider your past experience, short and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton. (500 words)

Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)

For Wharton-specific advice, visit A Guide to the Wharton Essays .

4. Columbia Business School

Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendation, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)

Essay 2: The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a new co-curricular program designed to ensure that every CBS student develops the skills to become an ethical and inclusive leader. Through PPIL, students attend programming focused on five essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias, Communicating Across Identities, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Managing Difficult Conversations. Tell us about a time you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)

Essay 3: We believe Columbia Business School is a special place. CBS proudly fosters a collaborative learning environment through curricular experiences like our clusters and learning teams , an extremely active co-curricular and student life environment, and career mentorship opportunities like our Executives-in-Residence program .Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you academically, culturally, and professionally? Please be specific. (250 words)

5. Chicago Booth

How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250-word minimum)

An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of your career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are… (250-word minimum)

Read more at A Guide to the Booth Essays .

6. Kellogg Northwestern

Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip and inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn? (450 words)

Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (450 words)

Read How to Nail Your Kellogg MBA Application Essays

7. MIT Sloan

MIT Sloan seeks students whose personal characteristics demonstrate that they will make the most of the incredible opportunities at MIT, both academic and non-academic. We are on a quest to find those whose presence will enhance the experience of other students. We seek thoughtful leaders with exceptional intellectual abilities and the drive and determination to put their stamp on the world. We welcome people who are independent, authentic, and fearlessly creative — true doers. We want people who can redefine solutions to conventional problems, and strive to preempt unconventional dilemmas with cutting-edge ideas. We demand integrity, respect, and passion.

Taking the above into consideration, please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program. Your letter should conform to standard business correspondence, include one or more professional examples that illustrate why you meet the desired criteria above, and be addressed to the Admissions Committee (300 words or fewer, excluding address and salutation)

Applicants are required to upload a 1 minute (60 seconds) video as part of their application. In your video, you should introduce yourself to your future classmates, tell us about your past experiences, and touch on why MIT Sloan is the best place for you to pursue your degree.

How to Start Your MBA Essay

So you've read about the types of essays, and seen some of the prompts from top MBA programs. Now it's time to actually start diving into the essay.

The very first thing to do, before putting pen to paper, is to look inward.

Why do  you want an MBA? What role will this degree play in your professional growth? How do you imagine it will shape your life? What do you want out of your career? What is the most important thing in the world to you?

Yes, these are life’s deep-end questions, but you’ll need to tackle them in these essays, so before you start writing, take the time to think through them. Go for a run, swim some laps, bake a cake—however you get into the flow — and start a dialogue with yourself. Put down your work, turn your phone off, and give your mind permission to go to the places it usually avoids. That’s a good place to start. That’s where the answers are.

Pro tip: The first sentence is the hardest one to write. When you're starting out if it can intimidating and anxiety-producing. The trick is to simply put  anything  down — and don't look back. Keep putting one sentence after the other. You can edit later: let whatever comes to you out onto the page. If you’re struggling with self-critique, dim your computer screen until you can’t even see the words you’re typing. Then keep going.

Additional Tips & Tricks

Once you've started your essay, it's a matter of persistence: keep writing, then keep drafting and editing until you have something you're really proud of.

To help you with that process, here are a few more tips and tricks:

  • Take Breaks

When you hit the wall — you will hit the wall — stop. This is your brain telling you it needs to do something else. Walk your dog. Take a lap around your room. Eat some cheese. Your body needs sleep every night to function; your mind is the same way. That next leap of inspiration will come exactly at the moment when you’re least expecting it.

  • Read it Out Loud

When you finally have a draft, print it and read it out loud to yourself. Your ear will catch things your eyes miss. Reading out loud is the best way to pick up on spelling errors, clunky transitions, and paragraphs that still need ironing out. It’s also a good way to envision how the admissions committee will experience your essay.

Don’t be precious with your essay. Send it to anyone willing to read it. Solicit as much feedback as you can. If you don’t like what people have to say, you don’t have to incorporate it, but you need an impartial third party to give notes on what they’re seeing, thinking, and feeling. (You’re too close to things to do it for yourself.) This is where a Leland coach comes very much in handy!

  • Complete Everything Early

This is more of a timing consideration, but you do not want to trip at the finish line because your internet went down the night before the deadline, or your credit card was denied when paying your application fee (it's happened before). Don't let that be you!

Here is another article to get you started, written by an expert essays coach: 7 MBA Essay Tips to Make You Stand Out in 2022 .

Example MBA Essays

Finally, here are two essays to help inspire you. The first, a personal statement essay, was submitted by an admit to Berkeley Haas' Executive MBA program; the second, a career goals / why MBA essay, was submitted by an admit to Chicago Booth's deferred MBA program.

Haas Admit:

A person’s identity is shaped by many different aspects, including family, culture, personal interests, and surrounding environments. Please share a facet of your identity or story that is essential to who you are. (300 words) My upbringing in India, filled with countless myths and legends, had a profound influence on me. The most formative tale was about a sage who prays for years to the goddess of knowledge, but in vain. In the end, the goddess didn’t appear for the sage because he was turning his prayer beads the wrong way! As a child, this story upset me: the sage worked so hard and had the right intentions. As an adult, though, I’ve come to realize that the goddess of knowledge was right: you can’t succeed unless you do things the right way. Seven years ago, two friends and I started a company, XXXX: a digital health platform that would allow patients to store medical records online and consult doctors remotely. We had early success—we brought on 2,000 patients at XXXX, a gynecology clinic in XXXX—but ultimately we didn’t have the resources to properly scale, and had to shut the company down. Among the many lessons I learned, the most valuable was that ideas and hard work are common; businesses succeed or fail based on execution—on doing things the right way. Two years ago, I relearned this lesson in the most painful way possible: when my marriage ended. My wife and I loved each other, but we weren’t there for each other when it mattered most. Our feelings weren’t enough—we had to back them up with the right actions. It’s disheartening when you have good intentions but still fall short. When this happens, though, you have to keep trying—because eventually you will do things the right way. I carry the story of the sage with me always, not as a harsh lesson, but as a motivating goal: one that keeps me striving towards doing things the right way.

Booth Admit:

How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250 word minimum)
I want to start a geothermal company that will help lead the energy transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy—by targeting existing oil wells as sites for geothermal plants. Oil fields are close to electric grids and have high nearby subsurface temperatures, making them ideal sites for geothermal plants. By building geothermal infrastructure nearby, my company will produce cleaner, cheaper energy, making it more profitable for operators to switch from oil to geothermal. As oil companies decommission their wells, I’ll negotiate for their land rights, so I can use their existing wells for new geothermal vents. I want my company to prove the case for economically viable, carbon neutral energy production. After getting an MBA I want to start a geothermal company which will help me lead the energy transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. I plan to target developed oil fields in Texas, where, in many places, producing wells are flowing enough hot fluid to generate clean energy. Using this geothermal heat, the carbon footprint of oil and gas extraction will decrease as fewer fossil fuels are utilized to power surrounding infrastructure. As the wells approach their economic life, I will negotiate the lease from various operators, saving them millions in plug and abandonment costs, and retrofit the wells for direct geothermal energy production via closed loop binary fluid systems, bringing emissions to zero. To accomplish this goal, I need to shore up my knowledge of energy economics and entrepreneurial finance, develop a strong sense of leadership, and build a network of like minded individuals that will help me lead the transition and I believe I can get those things at Chicago Booth. My immediate career goal is to develop my first co-production site in Shelby County, Texas at the Blanton well site, which produces abnormally heated fluid from the flanks of an active salt dome. Before investing in capital expenditures, developing a strong sense of energy economics and broader markets is necessary to verify financial feasibility. University of Chicago, through the Graduate-Student-At-Large: Business program, is already allowing me to accomplish this goal with my enrollment in “Microeconomics” with Professor Andrew McClellan. His instruction helped me understand the impact taxes and subsidies have on market equilibrium, an important aspect of renewable energy as green energy tax incentives continue to change on a yearly basis. As my company continues to grow, having a strong finance and accounting foundation is imperative to building and sustaining a healthy company. Electives such as “Accounting for Entrepreneurship: From Start-Up through IPO” will provide the skills I need to be successful by following the life-cycle of a business that originates as a start-up, and covers topics such as building an initial accounting infrastructure. I understand that execution of the business is as important as developing the idea and proof of concept, and Booth is the best place for me to develop financial fluency. Leading the energy transition will require a strong sense of leadership. Not only will I need to lead those I get to work with over my career, but to lead the energy transition, and reverse the impact fossil fuels have had thus far, I must have the emotional intelligence to inspire others to join me in my journey. The “Interpersonal Dynamics” course at Booth will allow me to develop my communication skills and better understand the emotions and perceptions of my colleagues. These skills, synthesized with leadership development acquired in “Leadership Practicum” will prepare me to act as a relational leader, who understands the needs of others. As a relational leader I hope to foster an environment which promotes happiness, and maximizes efficiency, not only to make our efforts in changing the world more successful, but to excite other people to join our cause.
To find the greatest chance of success in leading the energy transition, I will need a network of like-minded individuals who can provide a diversity of thought. Chicago Booth provides the opportunity to develop that network through different community experiences. The Energy Club’s “Energy Forward” conference, which designates time to topics in oil and gas and renewable energy will allow me to hear from industry leaders, build meaningful relationships with peers and contribute my sector experience to the public forum as I learn from those around me. Opportunities through the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group such as “SeedCon” will help me connect with successful entrepreneurs and early-stage investors whose ideas and funding might change the course of my venture’s trajectory. Even in the GSALB program I have had the opportunity to connect with other students in various sectors, including the energy industry. I hope to continue to strengthen those connections and continue building new ones with matriculation into the full time program.

Here are several other articles that you may find helpful as you put together your MBA application:

  • The Most Frequently Asked Questions on MBA Applications
  • How to Answer the "Why an MBA?" Essay Question
  • My Top Piece of Advice for MBA Applicants
  • How I Nailed My MBA Interview and Gained Admission to Top 10 Business Schools
  • 4 Expert Tips on Paying for Business School

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Inspira Advantage

Student holding a pen ready to write their MBA essay

How to Write a Killer MBA Essay


Writing a great MBA essay is a crucial component of applying to business school . According to Lisa Koengeter , the Director of Admissions at Booth School of Business , your essay provides them with “a better understanding of you, your self-assessment and your aspirations.” 

This article will outline what MBA admissions committees look for in your essays, show you how to write a killer MBA essay, and tell you what mistakes to avoid.

Types of MBA Essays

There are a few different types of MBA essay questions you will answer as part of your MBA application. The type of essay can be determined through the keywords used in the essay question. Each type of essay will have its own length requirements, depending on the business school.

This type of essay asks you to detail your personal and professional goals and how attending business school will help you achieve them. An essay question that asks about your aspirations or what you hope to gain from an MBA program is classified as a goal essay.

For example, Wharton is one of many schools that ask for a goal essay from applicants using the question: “What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA?” Columbia , NYU Stern , Darden , Dartmouth Tuck , and McCombs are some of the many other schools that ask about your goals.


A self-reflection essay is an opportunity for you to showcase the values and characteristics that make up your personal identity. It also requires you to discuss how you handled a failure at some point in your life or how you would approach an ethical dilemma.

Yale School of Management is one business school that uses self-reflection questions in its MBA essays . They want to know what the biggest commitment you have ever made is, including why you chose it and how you went about making it. 

Answering this question will require you to do some deep reflection in order to answer it thoroughly. 


The objective of this type of essay is to show an admissions committee how you will add value and contribute to their MBA program. 

Booth School of Business poses this question: “An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are.” 

Booth clearly wants you to elaborate on who you are, what you value, and how you live those values in your everyday life.

Some business schools want to know about the impact you will have on their program and pose a question that asks you to describe a time when you demonstrated leadership. This will involve discussing why you took on the leadership role in your chosen situation and your leadership impact.

Darden School of Business poses essay questions designed to gauge your leadership capabilities and the impact you’ll have on the program. As Dean of Admissions Dawna Clarke states, they are interested in “cultivating high impact leaders.” 

It’s no surprise that one of their essay questions from a recent application cycle was, “Darden strives to identify and cultivate responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact.”

Instead of writing a traditional essay, some business schools ask you to submit a video essay. The types of questions asked for a video essay can range from a short introduction to longer, multi-component questions.

Kellogg is one business school that uses video essays . They will ask you three questions. First up is an introduction, and the second is about your career goals and how Kellogg will help get you there. 

The third question varies annually and is generally more randomized, so you and all the other applicants won’t necessarily respond to the same question. 

How to Write a Great Business School Essay

Successfully writing business school essays is tricky. Many factors go into constructing a successful one. However, the top tips we’ve provided below outline how to write an MBA application essay that stands out from the crowd. 

Pay Attention to Your Essay Structure

Blair Mannix , the Admissions Director at Wharton, noticed successful essays all had the same structure: the setup, the pivot point, and the future. 

The setup is the opening of your essay, where you tell the admissions committee about who you are, what you do, and what you have learned so far. 

The pivot point is where you shift from discussing what you already know and do to talking about what you would like to learn and how that will help you succeed. Mannix also describes this as a lightbulb moment, where something clicks, and you realize that if you had more education in one or two areas, you would be better at your job. 

The final section of your essay is your opportunity to describe how gaining knowledge and skills in the area(s) you identified in the pivot point will help your career and why that specific MBA program will make this possible.

For essays that ask you to describe how you will contribute to the institution’s MBA community, Mannix states successful essays are personal, set up as a story, and show how your experiences resonate with the community.

Consider the Tone You Use While Writing Your Essay

It’s important to be genuine in your essay. Admissions committees want to know about you as a person and know if you’re being insincere or simply writing what you think they want to hear. 

As Laurel Grodman from Yale School of Management states, your essay is an “opportunity to speak in your own voice about something meaningful and distinctive in your life.” Don’t waste this opportunity by writing about something you think will make you look better. 

Write something that actually matters to you.

Authenticity is another key element to incorporate in your essay. Clarke recommends integrating aspects of your personality into your essay. For example, she suggests showcasing your creativity, humor, or any other attributes you possess. This allows admission committees to get to know you even better.

The Best MBA Essays Are School-Specific 

At first, this seems like an obvious one; of course, writing a business school essay means writing about the business school itself. However, this is a great opportunity to show off your research and explain why you specifically want to attend this institution. 

Have you looked into the school’s curriculum? Have you found which extracurricular opportunities you want to pursue if you are admitted? Are there any research centers that you want to become involved in? 

Show how this school is the ideal stepping stone to help you achieve your future ambitions. The University of Cambridge Judge Business School provides two MBA application essay examples that highlight the importance of this: 

Example 1 - “The programme will equip me with an entrepreneurial toolkit, allowing me to efficiently evaluate and capitalise on future business opportunities, further bolstering my credibility with future stakeholders.”

Example 2 - “Upon completion of the MBA programme at Cambridge Judge Business School I want to be a decisive and successful business professional.”

The first example is far more compelling; it explains what the student will gain from the program and how they will use it to achieve future success. 

Pick an Event or Situation That Matters to You

When you select your topic to write about in your MBA essay, you need to make sure it is something that had a significant impact on your life and resonates with you personally. This will help ensure your authenticity shows through.

Kellogg Director of Admissions Jennifer Hayes , says that “the best essays [she has] read have heart, are not over-edited, and let the applicant’s personality emerge.” This is best done when you do not force yourself to write something you think admissions directors want to read, but rather tell an organic story that carries significant personal meaning.

The Importance of Storytelling in MBA Essays

Business school admissions officers want to see how you approach traits like leadership and commitment in your MBA application essay. Yet, if you describe an experience and don’t reflect upon it, you will not highlight your mindset, dedication, and motivation. 

The best writers outline the traits that business schools want to see by telling personal stories and anecdotes. But how can you do that? It’s simple — show how your experiences impacted you. Don’t just tell us about it. 

Indeed, to use the idea of commitment as an example, Yale’s admissions committee “cares less about the commitment you choose and more about the behaviors surrounding the commitment.” They want to “come away learning something new about you as a person that helps us understand your values and motivations.”

Illustrating how your experiences affect your values and motivations is difficult; this process requires a lot of introspection and self-reflection. The trick is to use plenty of real-life examples and explain how they embody your values. 

One way to successfully do this is to use the STAR technique . The STAR technique is split into four distinct steps: 

  • Situation - Describe the situation and when it took place.
  • Task - Explain the task and what was the goal.
  • Action - Provide details about the action you took to attain this.
  • Result - Conclude with the result of your action.

Using the four steps outlined above, you can create concise, compelling answers to your essay prompts. Let’s use one of the Berkeley Haas essay prompts as an example for an MBA essay outline:

What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why? (300 words maximum) . 

We can split this prompt into two sections: 

  • Describe an activity, hobby, or anything that makes you “feel alive” when you do it. 
  • Explain why you find so much enjoyment in this one thing. 

Storytelling is key here, and the STAR technique can help you break down exactly what you want to say. Remember, it is important to reflect upon your experiences and, in this case, show why you enjoy something. 

If you manage to do this in your essays and show how you achieved results along the way, you will submit a strong MBA application essay. 

Plagiarizing Your MBA Essay 

Plagiarism is a big deal. 

Even if a student doesn’t intend to plagiarize someone’s work, colleges can and will detect it. If colleges detect plagiarism, they will likely reject the application outright; UCLA’s Anderson School of Management rejected 52 MBA hopefuls for application plagiarism. 

Applicants can easily and accidentally plagiarize someone else’s work by following MBA essay examples too closely. Essay examples are useful, as they can inspire you and give you an idea of how you can reflect upon your experiences. However, someone has written that example about their own experience in their own words, and you can’t copy it. 

If you are worried about plagiarism, the simple fix is to be original. After all, admissions committees want to hear about your experiences, motivations, and opinions. 

Authenticity is also an extremely important part of writing well; you will come across as more genuine writing about your genuine thoughts and experiences. If you want to check your work, you can use reliable and low-cost plagiarism checker tools like PrePostSEO and Copyscape .  

MBA Essay Examples

US News wrote an article on what makes for a successful MBA essay. They provided the following MBA entrance essay sample essays written by applicants recently admitted into highly reputable business schools.

This sample was written for Fox School of Business at Temple University .

sample essay

This essay was well-received by the admissions committee because it was written clearly and concisely, free of grammatical errors, and told a story. The candidate showed their personality and explained why a Fox MBA would help them achieve their career goals. 

This particular candidate was honest in their essay about their weaknesses and professional growth, which is generally well-received by admissions committees. The candidate detailed the initiative they had taken in learning about the MBA program at Fox and why they decided to apply.

This next successful essay sample was written for the Yale School of Management.

sample essay

Similar to the previous example, this essay told a compelling story through a clear narrative. This particular essay began with an anecdote that demonstrated the candidate’s work ethic, initiative, leadership, and resourcefulness.

This show-don’t-tell essay displayed what was important to the applicant and offered the admission committee insight into their personality and values. It also provided as much detail as was possible, given the 500-word limit.

Don’t Rely Too Much on MBA Essay Examples 

While MBA essay examples are valuable tools to see what got applicants into business school, they all have one problem: They are not yours. Other peoples’ essay examples don’t focus on your achievements, values, motivations, or experiences. 

In their essays, originality and authenticity are two critical themes that business schools look for because your life is unique. Remember, MBA essay writing is all about getting to know you , and your essays should truly reflect who you are as a person. 

MBA essay examples are useful. They can provide you inspiration, an idea of what can work, and outline how to discuss your own experiences. However, you need to draw a line in the sand and write your own essay at some point. 

People are admitted to particular schools for a wide variety of reasons. While their essays are one of those reasons, what works for one person might not work for you. Try not to overthink it — write about your experiences, background, and, most importantly, opinion. 

Mistakes to Avoid While Writing Your MBA Essay

In addition to following the steps for writing a great MBA essay outlined above, there are also some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid while writing your essay. These mistakes are listed below, along with solutions to fix them.

Submitting an Overly Complex Essay

Admissions committees don’t want to know how many buzzwords and how much industry-related jargon you know. They’re looking to find out about you as a person, not solely as a business person. 

Committees may become frustrated if they have to decipher what you’ve written in your overly complicated essay, especially since your application isn’t the only one that needs reviewing.

The fix : Use your own words and write as if you were talking professionally to a coworker. That way, your essay will sound more straightforward and personal and allow you to make a better connection with your reader.

Not Reading the Essay Question Closely or Misunderstanding the Question

You need to know how to answer MBA essay questions. Misreading or misunderstanding the question will lead you to write an essay that completely misses what the admissions committee wants to learn about you. 

This can lead to your application being discarded.

The fix : Find the keyword(s) in the question first. This will provide you with what the admission committee hopes to learn about you in the essay. 

In the Types of MBA Essays section above, identifying terms such as “contribute,” “gain,” and “lead” shows what the admissions committee is looking for you to answer. It is also a good idea to seek clarification if you find the question confusing. 

Restating Your Resume or Letters of Recommendation

Admission committees don’t want your essay to be a restatement of what’s already outlined in your business school resume and letters of recommendation . Your MBA essay should be unique and should tell a story that can’t be found elsewhere in your application.

The fix : Take some time to think about what you want to write about that answers the essay question and isn’t detailed anywhere else in your application. But suppose the moment or experience you want to write about is already included. 

In that case, you could instead focus on a particular project and describe some of the challenges you encountered, how you overcame them, the project’s outcome, and what you learned from the experience. 

Starting Your MBA Essay Close to the Deadline 

Starting too close to the deadline means you won’t have enough time to put together a clear, concise, and expertly written narrative. If you’re rushed, you’re more likely to make simple mistakes.

The fix : Start planning your essay(s) as soon as the essay questions are made available. Take time to create an outline for each essay so you have a solid plan for when you start to write your draft. 

By starting well ahead of the application deadline, you’ll give yourself plenty of time to write and revise without being crunched for time and stressed.

Giving Half-Baked Reasons for Attending Business School  

Business school admissions committees use your essays to gauge your interest in their program and institution. So, if you are vague about your career plans and why you should get an MBA at a specific school, take the time to outline them. 

Admissions officers want to see applicants who demonstrate clear and well-defined goals. So, do your college research and explain why you want to attend their program. 

1. How Long Should My MBA Application Essay Be?

The length of your MBA essay will depend on the specific school; some schools allow up to 500 words, while others want a very short and to-the-point response of 150 words. 

The length set out by the MBA program you’re applying to is an important consideration, and it is not a good idea to go over the word limit. Admissions committees want to see that you can follow instructions and are capable of writing succinctly. It will not reflect well on you to go over the allowed word count.

2. Is the MBA Essay Less Important Than My GPA and GMAT Score?

No, your MBA essay is at least equally as important as your GPA and GMAT score . While your GPA and GMAT scores are good indicators of your academic abilities, the MBA essay is the admission committee’s first opportunity to get to know you personally. 

This is also the first impression you will make on the committee, so it’s imperative that you write a strong and compelling essay. Most business schools use a holistic approach to assessing applications, and your response to the essay question can determine whether you are a good fit for their program.

3. Is There an MBA Essay Guide for Reapplicants?

Many schools will require or suggest that reapplicants submit an additional essay. 

This will vary by school, and it is important to check with each school’s website for the exact details of what’s expected of reapplicants. If it’s optional, it is a good idea to submit one because it allows you to explain how you’ve grown personally and professionally since your previous application. 

4. Can I Use the Same Business School Essay if I’m Reapplying?

It’s unlikely you’ll be successful using the same essay since your response could have been the reason you were rejected the first time around. 

It’s best to consult with an MBA admissions expert or mentor to find out where you went wrong and what you can do to make your reapplication essay strong and stand out in the best way possible.

5. How Do I Edit My MBA Essay Draft to Make It Better?

First of all, make sure there are no errors with your spelling, grammar, and syntax. Business schools want students with superb communication skills, and having basic errors in your MBA essay does not demonstrate that you have strong communication skills. 

Then, you should go through the common mistakes outlined above and make sure those are not present in your essay; if they are, fix them. Seeking a second opinion from a friend, mentor, colleague, or MBA essay editing expert will also help locate errors or improvement areas.

6. How Can I Ensure My Business School Essay Stands Out?

Whether you are faced with the Wharton MBA essays , Harvard Business School essay , or Booth MBA essays , to name a few, there are a few things you can do to make your essay stand out. 

The event or experience you choose to write about should be something you are able to write about in a compelling narrative. It should also be something you can write about with passion, which will allow the admission committee to see your genuine and authentic voice. 

Your strengths should be woven in with the story you’re telling. These things will make your essay stand out to the admission committee and help them remember you.

Unlock Your Future with the Perfect Business School Essay

Knowing how to write a great MBA essay can be a challenging component of the business school application process. 

But, if you know where to start, make an outline for each essay, and get expert assistance, the process becomes significantly more manageable. Following these steps will help you write a killer MBA essay.

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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.

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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.


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20 Must-Read MBA Essay Tips

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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.

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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.

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Our Stern essay questions give you the opportunity to more fully present yourself to the Admissions Committee and to provide insight into your experiences, goals, and thought processes.

Your essays must be written entirely by you. An offer of admission will be rescinded if you did not write your essays.  

  • Short Answer: Professional Aspirations
  • Essay 1: Change: _____ it
  • Essay 2: Personal Expression (a.k.a. "Pick Six")
  • Essay 3: Additional Information (optional)

Short Answer: Professional Aspirations (150 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

  • What are your short-term career goals?

Essay 1: Change: _________ it (350 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font) In today’s global business environment, the only constant is change. Using NYU Stern’s brand call to action, we want to know how you view change. Change: _____ it. Fill in the blank with a word of your choice. Why does this word resonate with you? How will you embrace your own personal tagline while at Stern? Examples:

  • Change: Dare it.
  • Change: Dream it.
  • Change: Drive it.
  • Change: Empower it.
  • Change: Manifest it.
  • Change: [Any word of your choice] it.

Essay 2: Personal Expression (a.k.a. "Pick Six") Introduce yourself to the Admissions Committee and to your future classmates using six images and corresponding captions. The Pick Six is a way to share more about the qualities you will bring to the Stern community, beyond your professional and academic achievements.   Your uploaded PDF should contain all of the following elements:

  • A brief introduction or overview of your "Pick Six" (no more than 3 sentences).
  • Six images that help illustrate your interests, values, motivations, perspective and/or personality.
  • A one-sentence caption for each of the six images that helps explain why they were selected and are significant to you.

Note: Your visuals may include photos, infographics, drawings, or any other images. Your document must be uploaded as a single PDF. The essay cannot be sent in physical form or be linked to a website. Essay 3: Additional Information (optional) (500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font) Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee and/or give context to your application. This may include important aspects of yourself not otherwise apparent in your application, including but not limited to: hardships you have encountered, current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE, Executive Assessment, IELTS or TOEFL, or any other relevant information.  

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Conquering the Pick 6

Nedjee Corriolan, Admissions Coordinator at NYU Stern, shares her tips for the Pick 6 essay on our full-time MBA blog.


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  2. Should I Study an MBA in Europe or the USA?

  3. All your MBA Application questions answered!

  4. The Role of MBA Application Components i.e. Essays, Resume, Recommendations, Extracurriculars

  5. How to Write a Great Opening of MBA Application Essays

  6. Strategies for writing stellar HBS and Stanford GSB Essays


  1. Why You Should Consider Getting an MBA Degree Online

    The world of business is ever-evolving and becoming more competitive. As a result, it is important to stay ahead of the curve and have the right skills and qualifications to get ahead. One way to do this is by getting an MBA (Masters of Bus...

  2. What You Need to Know About Symbiosis Pune MBA Fees

    MBA programs are an investment in your future, and it’s important to understand the fees associated with the program you’re considering. Symbiosis Pune is one of the top business schools in India, and its MBA program is no exception. Here’s...

  3. 10 of the Best MBA Programs

    Just 20 years ago, a bachelor’s degree was enough to compete in the job market. Despite the rising costs of tuition, a bachelor’s degree doesn’t hold the same value as more and more people are getting them. This is why many people are pushi...

  4. A Collection of 30 successful MBA Essays

    Sample #1- Goals Essay–Booth. How will an MBA from Chicago Booth- from the Evening MBA Program or Weekend MBA. Program specifically- at this point in your

  5. MBA Essay Examples for top ranked Business Schools

    Samples of MBA essays by real candidates who were accepted to Wharton, Harvard, INSEAD and other top ranked business schools.

  6. Successful MBA Application Essays

    Successful MBA Application Essays. With an increasingly competitive MBA admissions process, it's important to understand what makes an applicant stand out.

  7. MBA admission essay samples for 2023

    Unless otherwise specified by the school, your essay should be between 400 and 650 words. 4. Do all MBA programs ask for admission essays? Not

  8. MBA Admissions: Essay Topic Analyses 2023-2024

    The essay portion of the MBA application is one of the most crucial and time-consuming aspects of the MBA application process. These essays are designed to

  9. 2 MBA Admissions Essays That Worked

    "The essay allows MBA admission officers to get a better understanding of who you are, what you wish to accomplish and why you deserve to be

  10. How to Write a Powerful MBA Essay—With Examples

    The MBA admissions essay. Those words alone are enough to make most MBA candidates run screaming. Writing in general is hard enough. Writing

  11. How to Write a Killer MBA Essay

    Writing a great MBA essay is a crucial component of applying to business school. According to Lisa Koengeter, the Director of Admissions at

  12. MBA Personal Statement Examples for 2022 Applicants

    7 tips for creating the best MBA essays · Show who you are in a background essay · Show your direction in the goals essay · Use your optional essay to explain

  13. 20 Must-Read MBA Essay Tips

    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

  14. Essays

    Conquering the Pick 6. Nedjee Corriolan, Admissions Coordinator at NYU Stern, shares her tips for the Pick 6 essay on our full-time MBA blog.