News, advice and resources for business school applicants


Whether you’re looking for general essay tipsessay topics, or more guidance from our expert essay topic analyses, we’ve got it here at Clear Admit.

Georgetown / McDonough 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis

georgetown mba essaysFollowing up on the release of the Georgetown MBA essays for 2015-2016 — and our recent interview with Associate Dean of MBA Admissions Shari Hubert — we wanted to take a closer look at the program’s essay prompts and offer our analysis for applicants targeting McDonough’s Class of 2018.

Georgetown’s essay section has remained the same as last admissions season. In our interview with Dean Hubert, she reported that the adcom was pleased with the insight that the required essay offered into candidates’ personal histories and motivations for pursuing a McDonough MBA. With just one open-ended required response, applicants will need to think carefully about what to highlight (and what to consider reserving for one of the school’s two optional essays).

Let’s look at each of the Georgetown MBA essay prompts for 2015-2016:

Essay 1: Why You? (Hint: we are looking for an answer that cannot be found from research on our website; 750 words)
This unusually terse prompt can be taken to imply the expanded question “Why [should we admit] you [to our program over other interesting and well qualified applicants]?” Once unpacked, this query reads like a fairly straightforward question about the applicant’s interest in, knowledge about, and potential to contribute to the MBA community. According to our interview with Dean Hubert, candidates will have the opportunity to explain their short- and long-term career goals elsewhere in their application materials. Therefore, their remarks in this essay should focus on the interests and values behind those goals, as well as the applicant’s reasons for seeking an MBA and for applying to McDonough in particular. Of course, the adcom will also be eager to hear about the impact that the candidate expects to make on the MBA community, both in the classroom and through extracurricular participation. Akin to essays that ask the applicant to introduce oneself to one’s classmates, this essay should strike a balance between highlighting the elements of one’s personal background that would enhance the diversity of the incoming class, and explaining how these experiences and values make the candidate a strong fit with the program’s culture. Continue reading…

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Oxford / Saïd Essay Topics 2015-2016

oxford mba essaysThe Saïd School of Business has announced the 2015-2016 Oxford MBA essays for the coming application season. This year’s Oxford MBA application consists of two “mandatory” essays, as well as additional prompts for 1+1 applicants and reapplicants to Saïd.

The Oxford/Saïd MBA essays are as follows:

Essay 1: How do you fit with Oxford Saïd’s mission? (Maximum 500 words)

Essay 2: Is there anything not covered in the application form which you would like the Admissions committee to know about you? (Maximum 250 words) Continue reading…

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Fuqua Admissions Dean Dishes on Essays and Life

fuqua admissionsIt’s not every admissions director who will make time during her vacation to discuss how prospective business school applicants should approach their essays. And yet Liz Riley Hargrove, associate dean for admissions at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, did just that. Speaking from North Carolina’s Outer Banks this morning, before the kids woke up ready to head to the beach, she shared insights with Clear Admit on the essay prompts released last week.

Not a lot has changed this year in terms of Fuqua’s application, it turns out. Applicants will find they have twice as much space in which to answer three short-answer prompts—one on short-term goals, one on long-term goals and one on an alternative plan should that first short-term goal not pan out. This year candidates get 500 characters for each response, up from 250 last year. “We wanted to give candidates a little more opportunity to expand upon their responses,” she says of this year’s doubled answer field. Continue reading…

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INSEAD 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis

INSEAD_SingaporeNow that the online application for INSEAD’s September 2016 intake is live — and the INSEAD MBA essays for 2015-2016 have been released — we wanted to follow up with some commentary for business school applicants targeting the school this season.

Whereas last year saw INSEAD shortening the essay portion of its application, we’re seeing an expansion this year. This is particularly evident in the Job Description portion of the application, where the program has moved from just two required responses last year to four for this season. This would seem to suggest that last year’s truncated job description section didn’t yield quite as much information at the adcom might have wanted as they evaluated applications and made admissions decisions. Further, the school simply requests a “short answer” rather than specifying a word limit for these responses, giving applicants a fair amount of leeway (and building in a test of the candidate’s judgement) with this portion of the application. Meanwhile, the wording of the program’s four Motivation Essays remains unchanged from last season, though the length of the first item in this section has been reduced from 600 to 500 words — perhaps to compensate for longer responses in the job essay section.

Job Essay 1: Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/products and results achieved. (short answer)
While the essay sections of many MBA applications begin by addressing the overall progression of the applicant’s career up to this point, INSEAD’s first question requests a snapshot of the applicant’s career at this moment. Even if you have held a number of positions within the same organization, it’s best to maintain focus on your current position and responsibilities, as per the instructions. Keeping in mind that this will be the adcom’s introduction to your application materials, you might also provide the context necessary for the reader to understand your place within your company’s organizational structure and the work that occupies your days. While there is some room to talk about “results achieved,” there’s no need to get bogged down in the specifics of certain projects or engagements – an effective response to this question will be composed of fairly general comments that are focused on the present. It is fine to incorporate some more specific information about your career’s “greatest hits” later when responding to other questions. Continue reading…

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Duke / Fuqua 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis

Duke / Fuqua 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis

Following up on the release of the 2015-2016 Fuqua MBA essays, we wanted to offer some guidance to business school applicants targeting the Duke Class of 2018.

Duke’s essay section of the MBA application is largely unchanged from last admissions season. The Fuqua adcom has doubled the length limit for the school’s three short answer questions about the applicant’s professional plans. Meanwhile, the structure of the program’s longer essays remains the same: all applicants must respond to the first required response, and may choose between two options for the second required essay.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the Fuqua MBA essays for 2015-2016:

Short Answer Questions (500 characters; about 100 words each)
1. What are your short-term goals, post-MBA?
2. What are your long-term goals?
3. Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered?

These three questions are quite straightforward, calling for applicants to concisely state their short-term goals, long-term goals, and a professional back-up plan. Although asking about career alternatives is a bit unusual as far as b-school applications go, Question 3 is still fairly direct; applicants simply need to identify a second post-MBA position that would also lead them toward their stated long-term goals.

Of note, the Fuqua adcom has doubled the character limit for each of these responses, giving applicants a bit more breathing room as they provide this information and explain their professional plans to the admissions reader. This suggests that last year’s 50-word responses didn’t yield as much information as the adcom might have liked as they made admissions decisions, so it will be wise to take advantage of the extra room and provide as much detail about your plans and motivations as the length limit permits. Continue reading…

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NYU / Stern 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis

NYC_-_Washington_Square_Park_-_ArchNow that the NYU adcom has released the Stern MBA essays for the 2015-2016 admissions season — and now that Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions Isser Gallogly has offered his insight to NYU applicants via Clear Admit — we wanted to follow up with our analysis of this year’s NYU essay topics.

As has been the case for several years running, the Stern essay section comprises two required essays. The first, which focuses on the applicant’s professional goals and interest in the NYU MBA, is unchanged from last admissions season. Meanwhile, Stern has dropped one of the two options it posed in essay 2 last year, doing away with a response asking applicants to detail an alternate route to their target long-term position. This leaves the school’s classic Personal Expression essay, which is once again a required component of the NYU application.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the Stern 2015-2016 MBA essays:

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations (750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?
What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?
What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?

This is a fairly straightforward career goals essay, asking applicants to comment on why business school makes sense for them at this point in their careers, to articulate their post-MBA career objectives, and to outline the steps they’ve taken to learn about the Stern MBA.

To tailor this essay to Stern, we recommend answering each question in the order in which it’s posed, if you can make that work with the flow of the response. You might touch on your work experience to date and hint at the future direction you wish to take (i.e. name the industry or functional shift you hope to accomplish), and explain why you need an MBA to advance along that path. To fully address this first question, applicants should also explain the timing on their application; whether you’ve reached a plateau in learning at your current job or see an exciting opportunity that you want to act on as soon as possible, explain why this is the ideal time for you to enroll in business school. This first phase of your discussion might also describe the skills and knowledge you hope to gain from an MBA with an eye to your future plans (to be expanded on later). Continue reading…

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Berkeley / Haas 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis

UCBerkeleyCampusNow that the topics for each of the Haas MBA essays has been announced for the 2015-2016 season, we wanted to offer our thoughts on how to approach each of these prompts for business school applicants targeting the UC Berkeley MBA Class of 2018.

Haas MBA applicants will respond to three required essays totaling just 1,000 words. This represents a reduction in total word count as compared to the program’s essays over the past few years. Meanwhile, the subject matter is similar to that of previous applications, with a reprise of that song-that-represents-you prompt from the 2013-2014 season, as well as fairly straightforward questions about the candidate’s career goals and influential past experiences.

To begin, applicants should note the following preamble to this year’s Haas MBA essays:

At Berkeley-Haas, we seek candidates from a broad range of cultures, backgrounds, and industries who demonstrate a strong cultural fit with our program and defining principles. Our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles — Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. 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. (Learn more about Berkeley-Haas’ Defining Principles) Continue reading…

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HEC Paris 2015-2016 Essay Topics

european mbaThe HEC Paris admissions committee has released the 2015-2016 MBA essay topics via the program’s online application. The HEC MBA essays consist of five required responses and an additional optional essay.

The HEC MBA essays for 2015-2016 are:

Essay 1: Why are you applying to the HEC MBA Program now? What is the professional objective that will guide your career choice after your MBA, and how will the HEC MBA contribute to the achievement of this objective? (500 words)

Essay 2: What do you consider your most significant life achievement? (250 words)

Essay 3: Leadership and ethics are inevitably intertwined in the business world. Describe a situation in which you have dealt with these issues and how they have influenced you. (250 words) Continue reading…

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UVA / Darden 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis

uvaFollowing up on the announcement of the Darden essay topic for 2015-2016, we wanted to take a closer look at this season’s prompt for UVA MBA Class of 2018 hopefuls.

This is the third consecutive year that the Darden essay section has comprised a single 500-word essay asking applicants to recount the specifics of a past experience. Meanwhile, the nature of that situation is a new one for this admissions cycle; where last year’s applicants were asked to describe their most courageous professional decision, this year’s applicant class is asked to identify the most important feedback they’ve received on the job. This new prompt reflects a closer focus on the applicant’s ongoing development in the workplace and ability to learn and grow as a professional (as opposed to brave transitions between roles or firms).

Let’s take a closer look at the Darden 2015-2016 essay topic:

Essay 1: Describe the most important professional feedback you have received and how you responded to it. (500 words)
This response is designed to assess an applicant’s maturity, receptiveness to guidance, and commitment to ongoing development and improvement. We all have blind spots and areas for growth, and the Darden adcom is signaling an interest in admitting students who welcome feedback and work hard to implement it in order to better serve the client, customer, company, and other stakeholders. Continue reading…

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Duke / Fuqua 2015-2016 Essay Topics

Duke FuquaThe Duke MBA admissions committee has announced the Fuqua 2015-2016 essay topics for business school applicants targeting the class of 2018. Fuqua MBA applicants will complete three short answers and two required essays for this season’s admissions process.

The Fuqua 2015-2016 Daytime MBA essay topics are as follows:

Required Short Answers (500 characters; ~100 words)
Short Answer 1: What are your short-term goals, post-MBA?

Short Answer 2: What are your long-term goals?

Short Answer 3: Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered? Continue reading…

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Georgetown McDonough’s Shari Hubert Points to Subtle Changes in New Application

McDonoughRefreshed following a two-day staff retreat, the head of admissions at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business took time this morning to share with Clear Admit her advice to prospective candidates on how to approach the school’s application for the Class of 2018.

Though its essay question remains unchanged from last year, there are subtle shifts elsewhere in the application, says Shari Hubert, who has served as Georgetown McDonough’s associate dean of MBA admissions since 2013. Among other things, applicants will have greater opportunity to highlight experiences living and working abroad. Read on to learn more about these subtle shifts, as well as Hubert’s advice on how to make taking a risk in response to the essay pay off. Continue reading…

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