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How to write business school specific MBA essays

One of the most important questions plaguing the minds of MBA applicants in India and abroad is – How do I write business school specific MBA essays? Writing MBA essays is tough. Making them business school specific makes it more difficult.

So, many scamper to hunt for advice from MBA forums, current students and MBA admission consultants (especially those with alumni from a particular bschool on their teams).

After spending many years in the MBA admissions consulting space, we know that like most other subjective things in life, there is no cookie cutter for this answer. If someone comes to you and tells you that Columbia Business School puts in a lot of focus on value investing, that doesn’t mean that’s the ‘secret’ insight that will make Admission committees scoop you up.

The trick of the trade is to understand what Bschool specific insights you are looking for. What makes a business school and its MBA program relevant to you?
Read How to write powerful MBA essays

Wrong Uniqueness in Business School Essays

It is fallacious to read up the first page of the school, form an opinion and then trying to replicate the same stuff, reworded in your essays.

For instance, if the About Us section of say Columbia Business School, under the Students section rattles off statistics about the class diversity – that isn’t really the insight you are looking for.

Neither is the knowledge that say, INSEAD is the Mecca of consulting, necessarily relevant for all applicants.

Let me explain this. If you are an IT professional, trying to transition into a sales and business development profile, it is completely immaterial for the adcom to know, that you know, that their business school is known for its placements in management consultants jobs.

Likewise, in our earlier example, if consulting is your calling, knowing that Columbia or Ivey excel at value investing hardly needs a mention and if anyone gave you this insight, you aren’t really at any advantage.

Right Uniqueness for Business School Essays

The business school specific insight is also applicant specific. That means, each applicant has to find out what at a particular B-school is relevant and how that ties in to what he/she has done or wants to do.

This part can be and should be done by the candidate himself/herself, if needed under the guidance of an expert hand.

If you expect a current student, alumnus or MBA consultant to readily dole out this information to you, you are doing yourself a disfavor.

The MBA application process in its current form is designed to be a journey in self-discovery. In simple terms, this means the Admissions committee at most schools wants you to do the research and be convinced about whether a particular school is right for you or not.

This could mean reaching out to current students, reading blogs from admissions committee officers, attending information sessions at MBA fairs, webinars etc etc.

Where an MBA admissions consulting team can help you is by pointing you to the right sources of this information, rather than providing you the answer.

Should you re-use business school essays?

A linked, deeper predicament to the above dilemma is when many candidates are applying to multiple MBA schools.

Many spend nervous hours on deciding whether to re-use material from one school application to another.

Many scoff at the mere idea of re-using stories going back to the argument that every school is unique and hence how can the essays be unique.

By now I think you would have surmised where I am going from here. The answer to this conundrum, like many real life problems is, it depends. It depends on what you are thinking of re-using.

If it’s about your goals, and you are thinking of changing your goals to a schools purported uniqueness, please stop.

If going to a school means you will end up changing or compromising your aspirations, then you are better off changing the school to apply to – there isn’t a dearth of them.

So for your goals, by all means, go ahead and re-use your story across applications.

Keep in mind the line between copying / pasting and re-using. Don’t blindly lift content from other bschool applications.

Adapt it for each bschool depending on nuances like word-count and the way the MBA essay questions are worded.

Where you do need to abstain from re-using content is the how part of it.

How you came to the decision of applying to this school, or how does a particular school fit into your game plan is something that has to be unique – both for a school as well as between different candidates; career paths, like your fingerprints, tend to be unique and it is rare to find exactly similar ones between two individuals.

On other MBA essay questions, the answer really depends. But prudence dictates that you should perfect one application first, and then try to re-use material from that application to the maximum extent possible.

This presents a consistent view of your profile and also helps make the process efficient.

By all means, get inputs from MBA students, alumni and MBA admissions counsellors; but always use your judgment to take the final call.

More often than not, you will do the right thing. Even if you falter, you would have learnt a useful lesson.

Also read
How to show leadership in MBA essays and interviews: Focus on these 3 types
Career goals in MBA Essays
How to write MBA essays
Sample Harvard Stanford MBA essays using ChatGPT

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

21 thoughts on “How to write business school specific MBA essays”

  1. Hi,
    Can I use example of discrimination in diverse background essay? The discrimination didn’t last long and was resolved by me. Is it ok to showcase such a case?

  2. Hi ,

    My profile:
    10th- 92.4%
    Grad CGPA-9.04/10

    I have 2 years of work experience in a leading Automotive Firm. Currently working in an Education based startup as a Content Developer ( I wanted to change my profile).

    Planning to write GMAT this June. Also taking CFA (Level-1) in Dec.

    My extra curriculars are pretty shady after school.

    What should be the GMAT score i should target to get into ISB?
    What area i should target to develop my profile further to enhance my chances to get into ISB?
    What other schools i can apply to?


  3. Hi,
    I need some clarifications that i am working in a software company for 1.6 years and I have completed my ECE in 2014, earlier I have an idea of getting into core industry but I dint get the opportuinity so I was into IT. But I wish to do MS in VLSI from the top universities. I am financially down to take up such course in top universities, whether i can get fund and what will be the GRE score to attain this. And also I am changing my domain from IT to Core whether the IT experience will be helpful in searching jobs. I am looking for your assistance.

    Thanks in Advance…..

    • Sakthivel, from a GRE perspective, first decide your target school/program. Then look at score well above that program’s average GRE. Scholarships in MS are not rare – however you need to present a compelling proposition for it. You may get some mileage of your experience but unlikely to get a lot.

  4. Hello MG/ SK,

    I have summarized my profile below, please provide your guidance whether I have a good chance of making it to ISB/ IIMA’s PGPX/ IIMB’s EPGP:

    Class X – 70%, Class XII – 59%, UG – 59%, Prof qualification – Btech Mechanical , GMAT (640 -2016)

    I have over 8Yrs (as of september 2015) of experience as a Senior Design Engineer in Metso ,past companies- Escorts Ltd , Sona koyo Steerings systems Ltd.. All are TIER 1 and OEM’s .

    My aim for pursuing an MBA is to work in Sales/Marketing.I already worked in product design but Now i want to get in Management Roles.
    please guide any Good Colleges


    • Ravi, while your profile looks interesting, the GMAT can be a HUGE handicap – you are significantly below the average score for these programs when ideally you should aim for something above. That doesn’t automatically mean you can’t make it, but it gets all the more tougher. If you think your profile has things that differentiate you from most of your peers, then maybe you can have a shot.

  5. hi…
    My name is krishna ,
    I have completed B.E in MECH. , What should I do , MBA or M.E ?
    which is best career path ?
    should I do M.E and then MBA ?

    • Krishan,

      If you have just graduated, MBA is unlikely unless you are ok with the CAT based programs. The decision should depend on what you want to do with your career – not something I can really advice on without knowing it I am afraid.

  6. Hello,
    I am a 2016 btech(mech) pass out. Currently working as a marketing associate in a startup company in India. My 10th and 12th % are 90 and 83% resp. My grad percentage is around 60%. I have been on a social internship to Philippines for 2 months and have a 1 month technical internship experience. Apart from this I am planning to go on a marketing internship to abroad for 3 months.
    Please tell me would I be able to get selected for an MBA program abroad if I score good in gmat? I am mainly concerned about my grad percentage.
    Awaiting your reply. 🙂

  7. Hi MG,
    I am working in Bank of America (India) with a total of 5 yrs of exp. I want to enter into more of administrative role as I am frustrated working in an IT company as an analyst .The salary is around 10lpa , with least job satisfaction. While most of my colleagues/friends went for an MBA way back and are happy with current job profiles , here I am still sulking as an engineer .
    Kindly suggest which all MBA colg’ in India and abroad(with best ROI) I can target for executive prog and if I want to enter into 2017 batch , by when should I sit for my GMAT exams ?

  8. Good day Sir,

    First let me thank you for this clear cut and clarity of what happens when we study there. It was really helpful for preparing myself mentally. However I have a wee bit of questions hoping you could clear me out. Now I am going to give my profile but please dont get irritated “Ok here goes another profile evaluation”.

    college: 7.04/10 CGPA
    2 years work experience. 1 year in ITIL and 1 year in support management.
    (Personal Skills-Good programmer)
    GRE: 292 (Verb-147/quants-145)- I know it is low :<
    IELTS: expecting more than 7

    So that is my profile however here comes my real problem. I tried to get details of universities and I have been trying hard for the past 6 months on the curriculum etc… however with just a financial support of 30 lakhs to spend I am not sure whether I have any universities like it. Would you be able to advise if it is possible with 30lakhs INR as budget to study and some university list would be helpful

  9. Hi,

    I am software engineer, a TL, with more than 9 yrs of experience, India for 6 years and 3 yrs in USA current, with Accenture for past 7 yrs.I want to pursue MBA for strategy consulting, but as i have no prior experience in this, not sure if MBA is a good idea, i want to aim for NUS,Insead and if possible NUS-UCLA executive MBA. Is executive MBA a good idea for me, if not, a one year program with NUS and other colleges a good idea?

    Will any MBA colleges take me, even though i come for IT background and now trying for Strategy consulting. I cant do IT anymore.

    Is executive MBA for people experience in same field trying for hgher position, or does it help change career also?

  10. Hi MG,

    I am keen on doing my MBA from one of the premier schools in the US. Two years back, I had given my GRE and was wondering if I should apply to the B-Schools with my GRE Score. Overall, I feel I have a strong profile except for the GRE Score. MY overall GRE score of 324 is decent but the split up is bad since I am falling short in Quants (165). It would not be possible for me to prepare for the GMAT now. So my question is if I should go ahead and apply this year to the listed B-Schools with the same GRE score or should I wait for a year and prepare for the GMAT ?

    Below is my profile –

    1. GMAT Score – I have given my GRE and would like to apply to the MBA Program with my GRE score. GRE Score – 324 (Q-165, V-159)

    2. Undergrad Institute & GPA – Sardar Patel Institute of Technology (Mumbai University), GPA = 9.49 / 10. Graduated in Comp Engineering in Jun 2016

    3. Career Progression: including total years worked – 1 Year and 1 month with Credit Suisse as of now. Part of the Analyst Program within CS – working as an IT Business Analyst in the Regulatory domain.

    4. Extra Curricular Activities – In my college days I had chaired a student body. Currently in my firm I am involved in a committee that organizes various activities for the employees

    5. Community Service Activities – Not much.

    6. Goals (post mba: short-term & long-term) – Currently, I am in a back office role of a good Investment Bank. But Post MBA, I would like to break into Front Office Investment Banking Roles / Wealth Management / Private Equity Roles.

    7. Other Achievements – As of today, I have a little over 1 Year of Work Experience. Within this short stint, I have managed to parallely clear 2 levels of the CFA Examination.


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