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MBA Essay

All applications will ask you to present yourself in writing via a group of essays often referred to as the "personal statement.." The number, length and subject of essays varies tremendously from school to school, but all schools share the same objectives. They want your essays to give a portrait of who you are, what motivates you, and what your personal and professional goals might be. In addition, your essays will provide a sense of how well you communicate. Do you have a way with words? Do you get to the point? Do you communicate with confidence? Finally, your essays will reflect strongly how seriously you take your application, and by extension, your MBA project. Let's look at each point one at a time.

Who You Are?

The top MBA programs are looking for more than a great CV. They want to know before they "buy" that your personal qualities will be a value-adding addition to their class mix. Further, they would like to get a sense of how you are unique. So, let your essays create a three dimensional portrait of yourself.

You'll of course like to show the readers that you're a leader, a good team worker, mature, and self-aware. If you can, show a sense of humor. Even better, take whatever it is that makes you different (professional saxophone skills, an alpinist's love of heights, a passion for Buddhist sculpture, etc.) and bring it forward. This is what the reader will likely remember, and this might well be the point that gives you an advantage over people with professional profiles similar to yours.

Avoid arrogance at all costs. In writing, there is a fine line separating arrogance from self-confidence and poise. A good rule of thumb: you know yourself, but you can't assume much about others. Thus, you can be "smart" but you want to avoid claiming you are the "smartest" (even if you are).

What Motivates You?

Now that the admissions readers have a sense of who you are, they will want to know why. What values have made you who you are? A need to achieve? A passion for your sector? Why are you a high achiever? Why have you made the life choices reflected in your education and professional history? All of these points will give a very strong indication of the values you will bring into the program.

What Are Your Goals?

Just as important as the Who and the Why, the Where (are you going) will show the reader that you have a professional project that fits (indeed, necessitates) a top MBA program. Further, the reader will be able to evaluate your project against all other parts of your dossier to get a feel for how likely you are to succeed.

"But wait a minute!" you might say, "I want a top MBA for the professional options it will bring. Plus, I need two years in a stimulating academic environment to explore new interests and try new things. How can anyone expect me to present a well thought-out career plan?" This is a valid point, and in fact relatively few MBAs actually realize the grand plans presented in their dossiers. Nonetheless, a well-thought out plan, displaying knowledge, research, a sense of self understanding, and some common sense, is a crucial confidence-builder. Like a business plan, your professional project must convince people to invest in you.

So what should you discuss? First, you should be able to state clearly and succinctly a post-MBA career objective and a slightly broader goal for MBA + five years. A good example might be something like, "I intend to pursue a career in one of the Top 6 management consulting firms, building on my HR experience and language skills to become an acknowledged expert in the field of international HR management. In five years time, I'll either reach partner level, or leave the firm to become chief of HR for a Fortune 500 global corporation."

Once you have your professional objectives clear and on the table, you'll want to construct a logical bridge connected where you are now professionally, an MBA, the specific program to which you're applying, and your post-MBA objective. Explain why an MBA is necessary for you to reach your goal. Why you have to study now. And why Kellogg is the only, best place to go. Make your logic inexorable!

How Well You Communicate?

All of that is already a lot to accomplish in a set of rather brief essays. In fact, the strict length guidelines imposed by the admissions offices are in part a challenge to test your written communication skills. While good business writing cannot be taught in a few lines, here are some key hints.

Make it clear, to the point, and grammatically correct. Don't waste your words (and the readers' time), and don't leave readers scratching their heads trying to figure out what you mean to say.

Make it persuasive, positive, and personal. Your dossier works like a business plan, remember? So make your essays persuasive that you are worth the risk of admitting you. Next, even if you've had a tough life don't whine about it. Let these difficulties serve as chances for you to exhibit positive achievements. And as for the future, why do an MBA if you're not optimistic?

Show, don't tell. Straightforward claims ("I'm a super hard worker!") are often hard to believe and come across as arrogant or worse. Instead, substantiate your claims through anecdotes (that one-month project you headed with a one-week deadline). Stories are interesting; they are remembered; most importantly, they communicate the same message as a claim but in a more persuasive way.

How Serious You Are?

Admissions officers definitely use your essays as a gauge of your ATD Quotient (Attention To Detail). Make certain your essays show more than a weekend's work, that there are absolutely no typos, and of course that they are your own work rather than something you downloaded off the Net.

By now, you must realize that the Personal Statement is, all by itself, a big project. Schedule at least eight weeks to get them written.


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