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UNC / Kenan-Flagler Essay Topic Analysis 2009-2010

UNC / Kenan-Flagler has recently provided its essays for the 2009-2010 application.  The first three essays remain the same as last year’s application, but the fourth question presents a new challenge to Kenan-Flagler candidates.  In writing these essays, applicants should use at least 11-point font and 1.5 line spacing.  Below are some tips to consider in tackling these essays:

Essay 1:  What are the 2 or 3 strengths or characteristics that have driven your career success thus far? Do you have other strengths that you would like to leverage in the future? (500 words maximum)
In a way, this question requests a sort of “career to date narrative,” driven by the themes of a few underlying personal characteristics.   While the strengths you chose to highlight may be broadly applicable and have probably served you well in many situations, it will be important to focus your comments in this essay on the professional realm, highlighting your major accomplishments and detailing what professional strengths allowed you to achieve this success.  To address the second half of the prompt, you’ll also want to include a concluding comment about how you can utilize your abilities in the future to ensure continued success not only at the MBA program, but also in your career path beyond.

Essay 2:  Briefly describe the career path you intend to pursue immediately after b-school. Explain why this career option appeals to you and why an MBA is appropriate at this time. (500 words maximum)
This is a fairly standard career goals essay, as you will need to describe your professional aspirations and the motivation behind them.  Conceivably, the comments in this essay could flow directly from the forward-looking remarks in the preceding response.  Further, because candidates will likely have covered much of their career to date in the essay before, the 500 words in this response should provide ample room to fully explain their goals, the timing of their application with respect to their career path to date, and the ways an MBA from UNC will prepare them.

Essay 3:  What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to Kenan-Flagler? (500 words maximum)

This question gives you the opportunity to share some information about your interests and experiences that distinguish you from other applicants, while also showcasing your knowledge of and fit with Kenan-Flagler.  Think about how you can translate your passions and past experiences into involvement on the campus, and indicate specific contributions that you would like to make.  Creating a link between your past and future at the program will enable you to present a consistent and clear picture of your candidacy and professional and personal interests.  The more details that you can provide about how exactly you would contribute (playing a certain role in organizing a particular event, for example), the more reason you’ll give the adcom to admit you.

Essay 4:  Kenan-Flager has five core values: excellence, leadership, integrity, community and teamwork. If you could add one value what would it be and why? Be sure to explain how you have lived this value. (300 words maximum)

This question, new to UNC’s application, is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your knowledge of UNC’s program as well as present a personal side of yourself.  Because you will have to explain how you have lived the value you select, it is clearly important to choose a value that reflects your background and interests as well as your fit with UNC.  In selecting this value, it seems appropriate to consider the two or three characteristics you have discussed in your first essay as well as your personal qualities described in essay 3.  Linking your value back to the content of those essays will allow you to present your candidacy in a cohesive manner.

Through detailed research of the school’s program, you should be able to pinpoint one value that fits with the school’s personality and focus – while still supporting your own personal background and experience.  Selecting a compatible value is important, as it allows you to demonstrate that you understand the particulars of UNC’s program.  

In order to prove that you have lived your selected value in under 300 words, you should probably focus this aspect of the essay on a single anecdote.  As with selecting your value, your anecdote should complement the topics you have covered in your other essays; you will need a balanced discussion of your professional, academic, and/or extracurricular background to present yourself as a well-rounded candidate throughout your essays.

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