MBA Application Preparation: Essay

By Kirsten Wells (Senior Global Recruitment Manager, MBA & Masters in Finance)

Essays can often be one of the most dreaded parts of any business school application, but it really doesn’t have to be. Although we get a lot of information from your application form, the essay segment of the application can allow you to show more of your personality! The next blog instalment in the MBA Application Preparation series will be on essays, and what they bring to your MBA application!

Why do business schools ask for essays?

Business schools across the world will really vary in why they have essays and particularly what they ask as their question(s). Some might ask about your motivations for applying to that particular school, others might be more interested in your career goals. Generally, an essay component is included in an application to help Admissions Committees find out more about a candidate, beyond the black and white of the application form!

A lot of business schools will have set questions they ask but some might have one set question and one optional question (like LBS does!), so it’s important to know exactly what the essay questions are asking before you start preparing.

What should I include or address in my essay?

First and foremost – make sure you answer the question asked of you! For example, the LBS MBA application asks a question specifically about your future career goals, so do make sure you’re telling the Admissions Committee exactly that. When it comes to your aspirations, you might not have them specifically set in stone or you might be using the MBA to explore. This is fine! However, it is always good to include a focus to your career goals, i.e. you know the sector you would like to go into and potential steps to get there. It’s never a bad thing to consider any alternative plans too.

My next piece of advice of what to include – research! You’ve likely spent a lot of time researching the School, maybe even spoken to students and alumni or attended events, so make sure you include evidence of your research. Is there a particular elective you’d like to take because it’s applicable to your career aspirations? Tell us! Do you already know how you want to contribute to the LBS community? Let us know!

Finally, show us a bit of your personality! The essays should be written in your true, authentic voice. Be open and transparent with us and show us more of who you are!

Is the LBS optional essay truly optional?

In short, it really is. Every year, many candidates will choose to fill it in, and many will opt not to. It’s entirely up to you.

Whilst the essay is optional, I do urge candidates to view it as an opportunity! We include our optional essay to give you the space to tell the Admissions Committee anything you haven’t had chance to tell us yet in the application. It shouldn’t be a rehash of your first essay, or a regurgitation of your application form – it should be information that is new, or something particularly relevant to you as a person that you haven’t yet informed us of.

You might then be thinking, what could I write about? The Admissions Committee have truly seen it all! Some examples of optional essays I’ve seen in applications include: reinforcement of important points made elsewhere in the application, impactful volunteering experiences, more on their leadership roles they hold outside of work (i.e. sports teams, or professional networks), hobbies that have shaped their lives, and even quite personal stories! There really aren’t any restrictions on what you could choose to write about!

What are some best practice tips when it comes to writing the essay?

As explored above, the essays are really your chance to tell us your story, so it’s good to make sure you’re spending time on them. Be prepared to draft, redraft and maybe even redraft some more!

I often advise candidates to get someone else to read them – at the very least to check for any typos. Some ideas on who you can show it to – a family member or friend might be good option as they’d be able to advise you on whether your true character is reflected in the essay! Another person to show it too, might be someone who has limited knowledge on what your job responsibilities are – to make sure that you’re being clear in your messaging.

There is however a fine line with just how many people you share your essays with. You still want to make sure it’s your voice coming across, rather than someone else’s. There is a risk of too many cooks in the kitchen if you show it to every single friend and family member! 2-3 should be more than enough!

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