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IESE Essay Topic Analysis 2013-2014

With the Round 1 deadline fast approaching, we thought we’d take some time to look over IESE’s application essays for the 2013-2014 admissions season.  After reducing the required writing last year to just three essays and a total of 1,100 words, IESE has maintained two of those same prompts for the coming season.  By changing its second question and halving the word counts there, however, IESE has created an essay set of just 800 words in total.  Let’s take a look at each question:

Essay 1: Describe your short-term and long-term career goals (Post MBA). (300 words)

While this question is a version of the standard career goals essay required by many business schools, IESE’s 300-word limit is a bit tighter than that of some programs.  Applicants will need to clearly and concisely state what their future plans are for both immediately after business school and in the longer term, being sure to illustrate how their goals relate to their work thus far and the skills they would gain from an MBA.  A quick mention of applicants’ interest in IESE’s MBA program, perhaps naming some key courses and clubs, will also help to clarify why they want to earn their degree at IESE specifically.  Reading the Clear Admit School Guide to IESE will pay dividends here in order to make every word count.

Essay 2: Describe a recent situation (1-2 years ago maximum) that demonstrates your fit with IESE’s mission and values. (300 words)

Here, the IESE adcom calls upon applicants to highlight just one anecdote, rather than three stories as in years past, from their work-related or personal history.  The school’s one- to two-year limit on potential stories to discuss shows a new emphasis on an applicant’s recent past that was not previously a strong component of the IESE application.

One way to determine which situation to describe in this relatively short essay is to think about both the end results as well as how your actions and outcomes mirror the values of the school.  Experiences in which you made a lasting and quantifiable impact can lend themselves to a concise, factual narrative and a conclusion on how this narrative shows your fit with IESE, and given that this situation must be described in under 300 words, this can be an important consideration.  However, this isn’t to say that the process followed, skills gained, and lessons learned along the way aren’t important, too; highlighting an incident of personal or professional growth could offer a nice complement to show your evolution into a strong candidate for IESE’s MBA program.

As for the “demonstration of fit” component of the prompt, there are a few important elements to consider.  First, it’s important to review IESE’s mission and values as you research this essay.  With tight word limits in place, it’s unlikely that candidates will be able to detail how this one situation shows their fit with all of these values.  Instead, consider focusing on one or two key components of the school’s mission and aligning those with personal qualities demonstrated by your actions in this situation.  A final point to consider is that it’s also important to select stories across the IESE set with an eye to balance.  Be sure to show between this and your third IESE essay that you can excel in a range of settings and situations by thinking about stories not just from your professional experience, but also your academic and extracurricular history.

Essay 3: I wish that the application had asked me… (200 words)

This question provides candidates a chance to briefly explore an important aspect of their candidacy not mentioned in their data forms, résumé, or other essay responses.  For applicants from oversubscribed groups in the applicant pool, this essay could offer a great opportunity to truly stand out from the crowd by sharing an unusual hobby or an interesting anecdote.  Potential topics could be a time you demonstrated leadership, ethical behavior, entrepreneurial spirit, or persuasion skills, as these are all topics that are often of interest to admissions committees.  Whatever topic you select, it would be ideal to link this quality or fact to some element of your intended experience in the MBA program and/or future career.

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