Essay Topic Analysis
Free, expert analysis of business school application essay topics.
Welcome to Clear Admit’s first essay topic analysis of the 2013-2014 admissions season! Today we’re reviewing the essay questions recently posted by the Indian School of Business. Each of ISB’s three required essay topics changed since the previous application season, although the application remains focused on candidates’ achievements and professional goals. Also, still in place is the 300-word limit for each essay, meaning that applicants must draft their responses with an eye to creating brief yet content-rich essays. Selecting strong anecdotes for all three essays will be important as applicants seek to get the most mileage out of ISB’s 900-word application set.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the school’s essays:
Essay 1: Attitude, skills and knowledge differentiate people. Elaborate with two examples on how you would differentiate yourself. (300 words max)
New to this year’s application, this topic is relatively straightforward, yet it represents a subtle shift from the school’s prompt on differentiation in the 2012-2013 season. Continue reading…
With IESE’s Round 1 deadline fast approaching, we thought we’d take some time to look over the school’s application essays for the 2012-2013 admissions season. Following the trend of many top MBA programs, IESE has reduced the number of required essays this year, asking applicants to complete just three essays for a total of 1100 words. 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 most 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. Continue reading…
USC Marshall’s essay topics for the 2012-2013 admissions season remain largely the same as those posed to applicants for the past several years, demonstrating the school’s continued interest in applicants’ contributions to their communities, international experiences, and personal growth. Let’s take a look at each question in more depth:
Essay 1: What are your short-term career goals post MBA? How will USC Marshall help you achieve these goals? (750 words)
This essay is similar to the career goals essay required by many of the top schools. Applicants should note, however, that Marshall has slightly changed this question this year by asking only for a description of applicants’ short-term goals, rather than their plans for both the short term and the long term. Although Marshall does not specify how applicants should distribute their words between the two parts of this prompt, it would be prudent for candidates to maintain a balanced approach to answering this question. In addition, because Marshall does not specifically ask for a career history section, applicants should keep any description of their professional experience to a minimum, connecting it to their interest in and potential to achieve their goals. Taking the time to learn about the school’s special programs and extracurricular activities—whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to USC Marshall School of Business—will pay dividends here. Continue reading…
Today we’ll be taking a look at this season’s essay questions for the Indian School of Business, one of which has changed from last application season. This year, the application requires that candidates respond to three questions about their achievements and professional goals, as well as a topic of their choice. In addition, the ISB adcom has added a 90-second video component to the application. The narrow 300-word limit for each of these responses requires that applicants pack a good deal of information into a mere 900 words. Therefore, choosing strong topics and presenting concise messages for all three essays and the video clip will be important in the ISB application.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the school’s essays:
Essay 1: Please make a strong case to differentiate yourselves from an exceptional set of applicants applying for PGP 2013-14. You could cite personal/ professional achievements to present your case. (300 words maximum)
New to the ISB application, this is a fairly straightforward question that is a twist on last year’s achievement prompt. As brevity will be key given the 300-word limit, we suggest that applicants select no more than two achievements to discuss – ideally ones in which they had a positive impact on a person, group or organization. As always, it will be important to ground your comments in specific details and fully explain how these achievements differentiate you from the applicant pool, both in terms of the positive results you produced and the lessons you learned. Note that the question does not limit you to the professional realm, so you may want to choose one professional and one personal achievement, thereby presenting a more rounded picture of your candidacy. Continue reading…
Following up on last month’s announcement of Cambridge / Judge’s 2012-2013 essay topics, we’d like to offer applicants a bit of guidance in approaching these questions. The adcom has kept last year’s format of three essays totaling 1,000 words and has changed only one of the essay prompts. Because the Cambridge application is a relatively short one, applicants must make judicious use of the available space to highlight their industry-specific knowledge and preparation for business studies.
Essay 1: What did you learn from your most spectacular failure? (200 words)
While the topic of failure is a common one when it comes to MBA applications, the very tight word limit of this response makes this a relatively unusual task. With only 200 words to work with, applicants will need to summarize the failure itself in a very high-level manner, devoting the majority of the response to a treatment of the lessons they learned from the experience and perhaps a mention of the sorts of situations to which this learning has subsequently proven applicable.
The “spectacular” scope of the question adds a further layer of complexity, as applicants should aim to discuss lessons that will be relevant to future experiences on the Judge campus and in their future careers. Failures from the personal realm are technically fair game here, but candidates will likely want to give first consideration to professional or academic examples, or to those from structured extracurricular activities. Continue reading…
With Round 1 application deadlines coming up, we thought we’d take the opportunity to analyze Georgetown / McDonough’s essay topics for the 2012-2013 admissions season. The McDonough adcom has made some fairly significant changes to the essay questions this year, as applicants now must answer two essays and a short response rather than four essays. Let’s take a look at each question and consider possible approaches one might take in crafting a response:
Essay 1 (answer both Part A and Part B):
Part A. What is your short-term goal following graduation from the Georgetown McDonough Full-time MBA Program? What skills are you seeking to develop or improve upon in order to reach your goals? (500 words)
Part B. What is your long-term career goal? (100 words)
While it’s fairly typical for MBA programs to inquire about a candidate’s post-MBA plans, it’s a bit unusual for a program to isolate the applicant’s short- and long-term objectives into separate parts of an essay. In Part A, McDonough’s inquiry about applicants’ skills to be developed or improved upon requires a very high level of clarity about the exact job function applicants are hoping to work in after graduating from business school. Candidates would therefore do well to provide an example job title and even to name one or two organizations for which they would like to perform this job, as this level of specificity will facilitate the inventory of skills that Georgetown requests in its follow-on questions here. Of course, though the prompt doesn’t explicitly ask for it, a few comments about the ways two years in the McDonough MBA program would help to bridge the gap between your current and needed skill sets would be highly appropriate here. Continue reading…
This year, Oxford has changed one of its two essay topics, swapping out the “influence” question for one that asks applicants what Oxford should expect from them. By knocking 250 words off the recommended length of the second essay, the school now gives applications approximately 1,500 words to work with in total. The SBS application presents a unique challenge to applicants, who need to be able to share important and relevant information about their candidacies while consistently staying on topic throughout. For this reason, careful reflection and outlining is even more important when approaching this sort of application than one with a long series of shorter answers.
Essay 1: Explain why you chose your current job. How do you hope to see your career developing over the next five years? How will an MBA assist you in the development of these ambitions? (750 word)
Identical to last year, this prompt requests a fairly standard career goals essay, and thus the general advice we’ve offered in the past on how to tackle this sort of question applies here. The Oxford adcom looks for applicants who offer fully defined long- and short-term career goals, sound reasons for pursuing an MBA at this time, a well-informed rationale for their interest in SBS and specific plans to contribute to the campus community if they are admitted. Note that Oxford specifically asks applicants to explain why they chose their current jobs and to discuss their five-year career plans; while it is certainly fine to look beyond this second part of the prompt to explore longer-term objectives as well, it is at minimum essential to explore one’s next five years in depth.
The key to successfully tackling each of these components is specificity. In presenting their goals and explaining their motivation for seeking an MBA, it is crucial for applicants to present well-defined and feasible short-term and long-term career objectives, specifying the job title they hope to hold in their target industry and commenting on what they hope to accomplish in their target positions. In most situations, a career goals essay is more compelling when it includes a brief but coherent career history that summarizes the applicant’s work to date, revealing the continuity between one’s previous professional experiences and goals for the future.
Essay 2: What should Oxford expect from you? (750 words)
New to the application this year, this question is your chance to demonstrate to the SBS adcom that you’ve done your school research and know the ways in which you can make a positive contribution to the Oxford MBA program. Before approaching this essay, we suggest that applicants take some time to think about their strengths and the unique aspects of their backgrounds and personalities that would inform their contributions to SBS. In addition, having a strong grasp of Oxford’s academic offerings, clubs, special programs and extracurricular offerings will allow you to draw conclusions about the circumstances under which you’d display certain strengths and characteristics. Applicants should also note that by including a 750-word contribution question, the Oxford adcom is looking for students who have thought about the positive impact they could have at SBS.
For more guidance on how best to present yourself to Oxford, please reference our guide, the Clear Admit School Guide: Saïd Business School, or fill out our contact form for a free initial assessment.
Following up on our recent announcement of Tepper’s 2012-2013 essay topics, we’d like to offer up some commentary on this aspect of CMU’s MBA application. Tepper’s prompts are only slightly different from last year’s, and suggest a continued interest in the applicant’s broad goals and ability to make an impact, as well as curiosity about the candidate’s approach to handling challenges or conflict. Although there are no prescribed word limits, the admissions office suggests a length of two double-spaced pages each for Essays A and B and one double-spaced page each for Essays C and D.
Essay A: What are your short-term and long-term goals? How will a Tepper MBA help you to achieve these goals? (Please include any information regarding what steps you have taken to learn more about the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.)
For another year in a row, Tepper has taken the fairly typical approach of leading off with a standard career goals essay—and at two double-spaced pages, they allot a very reasonable amount of space for applicants to use in addressing this subject. The key for Tepper applicants will be to formulate a directed discussion that speaks to the question, making judicious mention of one’s career to date where appropriate in explaining one’s motivation and preparedness for his or her goals. Continue reading…
As prospective students might have noticed when the Johnson School’s 2012-2013 application essay topics were announced at the end of June, Cornell is shaking things up this year. The admissions committee has created two career and goals related essays – placing an even greater emphasis on this topic – and has eliminated altogether the 200-word legacy question. Finally, the school’s ever-tricky “life story/table of contents” question returns for a fifth year running, but is no longer required. This year, applicants can choose from among three character-related essay prompts.
Let’s take a closer look at each and consider some strategies for tackling this year’s application essays:
Essay 1: How would you characterize your career since college? (300 words maximum)
This is not your job description or complete history of your work since graduating (we already ask for that in the online portion and can see this on your resume). You need to choose the most important elements that show your initiative, contribution, leadership and results achieved.
New to the application this year, this essay may seem somewhat similar to INSEAD’s first job description essay. However, as Director of Admissions Christine Sneva shared with us, the Johnson adcom views this as an exercise that will prepare applicants to give a “30-second elevator pitch” of their professional background to future employers. With this advice in mind, we suggest that applicants go beyond presenting a rundown of what’s covered on their resumes. Thinking about key themes in one’s career as well as the turning points and significant achievements is a good place to start. No matter what course your career has taken, it is important to highlight the pivotal moments that have brought you to where you are today. Providing the adcom with insight into why you made the career decisions you did and what professional accomplishments led to your promotions would go a long way in helping them put your work history in context. Because you only have 300 words to convey your message, it will be imperative to use economy of language and only include those examples that are most impressive to your candidacy.
We wanted to take some time today to comment on the UT Austin – McCombs essay topics for the 2012-2013 admissions season, which differ somewhat from last year’s two required questions. The most conspicuous change this year is the replacement of the 500-word personal strengths and contribution essay with a three-part, 600-word “positive impact” essay. Without further ado, let’s take a look at this year’s essay questions in detail:
1. Describe how your professional and personal experiences have led you to pursue an MBA at this time. Please share with us your short and long term goals and why the Texas MBA at McCombs is the program best positioned to help you achieve them. (Limit: 800 words)
With the exception of a 100-word decrease in the word limit, this essay question remains unchanged from last year. While most admissions committees are interested in the professional reasons behind applicants’ decisions to apply to business school and the motivations regarding timing, the fact that McCombs specifically asks about personal experiences shows that candidates will need to expand their essay to include non-professional experiences that have influenced their future goals.
One approach to this topic would be for candidates to summarize what they’ve done thus far in their career and personal life that have led them to define their career goals. Then they can explain their future plans and demonstrate why an MBA – and in particular an MBA from McCombs – is necessary to move forward. While that approach does place this question into the general career goals essay category, it’s important to keep in mind that the McCombs adcom is clearly interested in the candidate’s assessment of their personal and professional experiences and the reasons that a turning point has been reached.
While Berkeley / Haas has made a few interesting changes to its essay set for the 2012-2013 admissions season, the school begins its list of questions with the
same reminder as in previous years:
“At Berkeley-Haas, our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles—Question the status quo; Confidence without attitude; Students always; and Beyond yourself. We seek candidates from a broad range of cultures, backgrounds, and industries who demonstrate a strong cultural fit with our program and defining principles. Please use the following essays as an opportunity to reflect on and share with us the values, experiences, and accomplishments that have helped shape who you are.”
Applicants would therefore do well to select examples and respond to each of the program’s required essays in a way that, in aggregate, touches upon these four principles.
Haas has also reduced the overall length of its essay set. While last year’s application featured a total of six required essays, this year’s application has only four 250-word essays and one 750-word essay.
Now let’s examine each essay individually:
Essay 1: If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 word maximum) Continue reading…