Essential MBA Essay Tips

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By Steve Bailey

With Advice from Petia Whitmore

Published on August 19, 2021

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With a great essay, you can gain entry into the top MBA programs across the country. An advanced degree gives you a big advantage in the business world, as a Bloomberg Businessweek survey found that MBA degree-holders can increase their salary by as much as 80% after graduation.

Although grades, standardized tests, and work experience can play an important role in your admission status, your MBA essay gives you an opportunity to clearly demonstrate exactly what you would bring to your desired program.

How Important Are MBA Admission Essays?

An MBA essay is perhaps the most important part of the admissions process. You should therefore spend a considerable amount of time on your essay to ensure you showcase your skills, characteristics, and experiences as clearly and effectively as possible.

When evaluating essays, admissions departments look at applicants' writing abilities, personal characteristics, and business experience they have gained so far. An essay gives you a chance to share your background, any unique experiences you have had, and why you believe you will succeed when seeking an MBA degree.

“Before you start writing, spend time exploring your defining personal qualities, the major influences that have shaped you, your accomplishments, goals, and sources of motivation.”
Petia Whitmore, Former Dean of Graduate Admissions at Babson College

MBA programs typically look for applicants with strong creativity and critical thinking skills, along with a drive to achieve clearly defined goals. They also seek well-rounded individuals who have made an effort to interact with people from outside their own community or culture.

Five Essential MBA Essay Tips

Start Writing Early

While you may not need to write thousands of words for your MBA admission essay, writing requires a great deal of thought, reflection, and creativity. Give yourself plenty of time to overcome potential writer's block and ensure your essay truly represents what you would bring to an MBA program.

Demonstrate Your Qualities

Go beyond simply listing your skills by providing anecdotes that demonstrate exactly why you have the qualities necessary to succeed when seeking your MBA degree. Include an example or two of how your experience or dedication paid off for an employer or how you overcame challenges to succeed on a project.

Clearly Define Your Goals

Every MBA essay should include a series of clearly defined goals. Explain what you want to achieve while enrolled in the MBA program and how you will leverage the knowledge you gain to reach your career goals. Detail why you possess an interest or passion for the specific area of business you wish to pursue.

Be Succinct and Stay on Topic

Take some time to learn the fundamentals of good business writing and persuasion. Write concisely and avoid unnecessary filler words.

“The first and most important purpose your essays serve is to provide the information the admissions committee is looking for.”
Petia Whitmore, Former Dean of Graduate Admissions at Babson College

Address the specific prompt or question directly and as early on in your MBA essay as possible. Admissions departments tend to favor applicants who demonstrate strong writing skills.

Proofread Your Essay

You may need to go through several rounds of revisions before you reach a final draft of your MBA admission essay. Carefully proofread your draft for clarity, word choice, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Ask someone you trust to edit and proofread your essay before you submit it.

Five MBA Essay Mistakes to Avoid

Focusing Only on Your Accomplishments

Your MBA essay should go beyond simply listing your accomplishments. Dive deeper by sharing your values, perspectives, and what you learned through your experiences. Doing so can show admissions departments how your accomplishments have led to you becoming a well-rounded individual focused on success.

Using a Sample Essay

Make your MBA admission essay your own. While you can look at examples online to get you started, avoid modeling your essay too closely to them. You want your essay to stand out and reflect who you are and what you would bring to an MBA program.

Lacking Structure or Storytelling

The best MBA essays tell a story. Your essay should start with an overarching theme and use stories of your experiences to support that theme. If you do not know what an effective story structure looks like, search for examples online. Admissions departments are drawn to essays that tell them a story.

“An MBA story paints a picture of what you have accomplished so far in your life and career and where you aspire to go. "That picture comes together through the multiple examples you will want to use in various parts of your application.”
Petia Whitmore, Former Dean of Graduate Admissions at Babson College

If you do not know what an effective story structure looks like, search for examples online. Admissions departments are drawn to essays that tell them a story.

Making Too Many Generalizations

Including too many general statements in your MBA admission essay can make it uninteresting. Instead, use real-life examples and specific reasons for the claims you make in your essay. Tell the readers exactly why you believe you will succeed when seeking your MBA degree.

Exceeding the Word Limit

Some students believe exceeding the word count limit makes them look like overachievers. That's not the case. In fact, writing too much may signal to admissions departments that you cannot write succinctly. You can keep your MBA essay within the requested word count through sound proofreading and editing.

Frequently Asked Questions About MBA Essays

Do MBA essay questions change every year? true

Most MBA programs change their essay questions each year. While some may ask completely new questions, others may simply tweak what appeared on their application the year before. Therefore, you may find yourself answering different MBA essay questions as you apply to various programs.

How do you end an MBA essay? true

The end of your MBA essay gives you a chance to demonstrate your career goals beyond your degree program. Wrap it up by summarizing how your master's degree will prepare you for what you hope to achieve once you have completed your education. Be as specific as possible and connect your goals to the offerings of the specific MBA program for which you are applying.

How long should MBA essays be? true

While the length of your MBA admission essay depends on the program, most are 750-1,200 words. While it may seem counterintuitive at first, falling short of the word limit is better than going over. Using fewer words to get your point across demonstrates you can write concisely, a key skill in the business world.

How do you write a good MBA essay?

Start writing early on and clearly outline your goals. You should also be as succinct as possible and proofread your essay numerous times to ensure it truly reflects who you are and what you would bring to an MBA program.

Is an MBA difficult?

Earning an MBA degree requires significant time and effort. Some programs feature more demanding course loads than others. However, if you work hard, maintain an interest in business, and focus on always building your skills, you can increase your chances of success.

Interview From:

Petia Whitmore is the founder of the MBA admissions consulting firm My MBA Path. Previously, she served as Dean of Graduate Admissions at Babson College and Managing Director of The MBA Tour, a subsidiary of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Now she helps create MBA success stories, one candidate at a time.

Should you choose a full-time or part-time MBA program? Learn more about the pros and cons of each. Declining MBA enrollment is changing business education. Students want flexible and affordable MBAs, and schools need to adapt to these trends. Learn about scholarships and financial aid available for students pursuing a degree in business.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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