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Why MBA Essays are so important

Posted: September 8th, 2014, 11:08 pm
by MBACrystalBall
[This is an article that we wrote for Pagalguy]

We saved MBA Essays for the end of our mini-theme covering application components for several reasons.

1. When you are competing in the Indian applicant pool that looks like one big homogeneous monolith, MBA essays are the single most effective way to achieve differentiation and stand out from the crowd.

2. Within the jigsaw puzzle that is your MBA application, it is the most confusing and mysterious piece. You won’t know if and when you’ve completed it, because there is no standard solution that you can compare it with. The essay topics you need to tackle for a school are exactly the same for everyone, but every candidate ends up with a final image that is (hopefully) different and unique.

3. The questions are introspective in nature. And that’s something that most of us haven’t tackled before in our lives, ruled by mathematics and technical topics that always had a right answer.

Q1. What role do MBA essays play in the bschool admissions process?

An MBA program attracts applicants from various backgrounds and bschools try their best to maintain diversity in the class. Often it is tough to really decide on why or how any candidate is better than the others.

Beyond a particular point, a GMAT or TOEFL score doesn’t matter. Just because a few applicants scored 10 points more than many other people competing for the same seat, doesn’t make them superior. The resume has the same limitations.

How can an admissions officer compare a management consultant against an investment banker?

This is where MBA essays come into the picture. They help candidates go beyond their GMAT scores, their industries and basically everything that slots them into a particular category (e.g. Indian / IT / Male / Engineer). Essays are a great way to bring the application to life.

Q2. Are MBA essays the same as Statements of Purpose (SoP)?

The basic intention of both these tools is the same i.e. to evaluate if applicants have the right reasons to join a higher education program, but the scope and depth of MBA essays is far greater.

In an SoP, as the name suggests the applicants ‘purpose’ needs to come across clearly to ensure that the right candidates are admitted. This format is commonly associated with MS degrees though many MBA programs also have been accepting it.

The term ‘MBA essays’ may not completely reveal the underlying concept (SoP is far more self-explanatory), but it does more or less what the SoP does, but in a more comprehensive manner.

So instead of a single all-encompassing motherhood question, essays are broken up into multiple topics covering different aspects that help the admissions officer judge the professional and personal calibre of the candidate.

Q2. What kind of questions do schools ask in their MBA essays?

The main topics that you’ll encounter in most of the top schools are as follows:

Why MBA: What are your career goals? How do you think a full-time MBA degree will help you achieve them? Have you considered other (non-MBA) options? If so, why don’t you think those are worth pursuing?

Timing: Why do you think this is a good time to take break from what you are doing to go back to school? If you are younger or older than the typical candidate entering the program, why should we select you over the others?

Accomplishments: What have you done in your professional life that you are proud of? What have you learnt from a failure?

Personal traits and qualities: Describe stories where you have demonstrated leadership, business acumen, team work, communication skills.

Extra curricular activities, social involvement: Do you have a life outside work? What do you really like doing? Do you care about anything else apart from money? What makes you an interesting person?

Creativity: This could range from writing the table of contents of your autobiography to how your friends might describe you 10 years later.

The wording for the essay questions might differ, but many of them would touch upon these common themes. Read up on some MBA essay writing tips, roll up your sleeves and try your hand at a few of the essays listed on business school websites.

It doesn’t matter if schools haven’t released essays for the upcoming season. As with many skills, this one gets better with practice too.