ESSAY #2 “Demonstrate How You Will Contribute to the School…”
With the upcoming application cycle getting closer, I have decided once again to connect with guest author Kofi Kankam, Co-founder & Director or Admit Advantage, an MBA advisory company. Kofi’s earlier articles include “I have a weakness – GPA” and ESSAY #1 Be Succinct but Responsive to the Questions. Here, Kofi discusses a key aspect of the MBA application- demonstrating how you will contribute to the school.
Take it from here, Kofi…
Every program, and certainly the top schools request within the MBA application that each prospective student indicate “how they will contribute to the school”. Of course, if the situation was that obvious and prospects didn’t flub it – frequently, we would not be spending your time and ours missing reruns of Law & Order and the lead-up to the baseball playoffs reading and writing this short vignette. The schools never ask the question that directly as the request can come in many forms and even sometimes as part of other questions. These forms may include:
- “Why do you want to go to ‘School X’”
- “Trace your career progression”
- “How will you introduce yourself to your classmates”
Be Aware of What the School Actually Wants To Know!
With the question never stated directly and candidates already not aware of the need to answer this question generally (even if it is not asked specifically), the potential for death by negligence is exceptionally high. Too often, as MBA admissions consultants, we see MBA admissions essays which show only the perspective of why the candidate wants to attend an MBA program as opposed to what he/she is seeking to contribute. While these feelings may be true in answering the question about why you want to go to School X, it is critical for MBA applicants to balance this focus on what they will derive from the program with a focus on what they will offer. The reasons that candidates typically offer are:
- Fulfilling a lifelong dream
- Ability to become very financially successful, nab the corner office, drive the Benz, and hope to tee it up with Phil Mickelson, or trade ground strokes with Serena (don’t get her angry), etc…you get the point
Set Yourself Apart From the Pack…
Of course, those are the reasons, but how does that help an admissions committee member who is trying to decide which one out of five, six or ten MBA applicants deserves a seat in a program? Not very much. Neither does praising the school to no end, recounting the rankings, detailing famous alumni who have attended, deals that have occurred led by specific alumni, etc….Do you remember how annoying it was in high school when all the people trying to date you would just endlessly fawn all over you and tell you how great you are? Wait….I don’t remember either. But, when I observed it, I realized that the person who often “won” that contest often really made an impression on how they were going to make things fun, interesting, better for the person they were dating. They didn’t just praise them to the high heavens. Remember, you’re applying to impress MBA admissions, not to get a job with the school’s brochure committee.
Write From a Different Perspective.
Your MBA essay writing needs to include a focus on the admissions committee’s perspective. While they certainly want to verify that you possess the intellectual horsepower, ability to do the work, likelihood of gaining employment, and desire to attend their specific program, the great MBA candidates (or at least those who prepare great MBA applications – not necessarily the same thing) offer much more: They appeal to the MBA admissions committee’s desire to assemble a class which has unique individuals capable and committed to making a unique contribution to the MBA community. Once you have demonstrated you are admissible by the aforementioned standards, the MBA admissions committee is most concerned about “fit” which is largely your ability to enhance the experience for your other MBA classmates. Do you wonder who gets admitted to very competitive programs? Those people who make the programs better for others.
So, as an MBA applicant, you should include a focus on how you will contribute in a few key areas:
- Academically within the classroom
- Academically beyond the classroom (i.e. “learning/study teams”)
- With regard to your extracurricular activities
- With regard to being an alumnus (where you will spend most of your days)
Transplant yourself into the shoes of an MBA admissions officer who is composing their class for the demanding professors to educate. When you write your MBA essays, be sure to indicate how you will leave your mark beyond your career in the pursuit of impacting others and you will be well-situated to make a competitive run.
Thanks for reading and reach out if Admit Advantage can help you,
|Anthony is a test prep and admissions expert in Orange County, CA. Click here to read more articles from The Princeton Review and to learn more about The Princeton Review's GMAT services.|
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12 Steps on How to Apply to Business School – Step 8: MBA Application Essays ‒ Your Contribution To The MBA Program And Fit
June 12, 2015|by Matt Symonds
There are several themes that recur in essay questions that business schools ask so we’ll provide some MBA essay tips for these. Earlier in this series, we looked at three common themes around ‘Why an MBA now?”, “Why this MBA?”, and “What’s your career vision?”. Admissions committees also want to ensure they’re admitting positive contributors to their school community. Therefore you’ll also find two other common themes regarding what you can bring to the program and how well you align with the overall fit of the school.
Let’s take a look at these two themes that business schools want you to address:
1) What will you add to our student and alumni community? Schools want engaged students who have lively debates both inside and outside the classroom, who contribute to community life, and who will become active alumni in the future. The alumni network is, according to some schools, their greatest asset. So will you add value to it? Many schools use students and alumni in the admissions process as file readers, interviewers, and even as members of the admissions committee. When they look at your application, they’ll be thinking: Would I want this candidate as a member of my team? And: Do I want this person in my alumni network?
One of Columbia Business School’s essays asks “CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you?” This question is looking for information about you that can be a conversation-starter, something that tells more about who you are, ideally something that others would find engaging. It can be something that others might not know about you initially and that will provide some insight into what matters to you and what makes you the person you are.
The example you share can be indicative of how you would be involved as a student there, even if your example is not necessarily related to the school. You need to demonstrate that you have interesting experiences to share, a perspective that could enlighten classmates, and the confidence to share what you have to offer. This is a great opportunity to show how you’ve contributed to other groups, clubs, or communities ‒ at your previous school, for example, or outside of work. If you have taken the lead and achieved something worthwhile, so much the better.
2) Cultural fit: your values and those of the school. INSEAD has a very international student body and thus asks its applicants to answer a question to assess their comfort in multi-cultural settings: “Tell us about an experience where you were significantly impacted by cultural diversity, in a positive or negative way.” Another school with a very distinctive culture is Berkeley-Haas, which promotes its four key principles heavily. The school expects applicants to know about these values, and asks candidates to share some of their own personal values that have shaped who they are. It’s important to really understand the culture and values of each program so you can highlight appropriate components from your own background that align with the schools’ values.
At Fortuna, as Admissions Directors, we saw students in our programs who didn’t flourish because of a cultural mismatch with the school. Each institution has a distinct identity ‒ hence the importance of visiting it beforehand to soak up the atmosphere and evaluate the fit. Some schools have a more competitive spirit; others promote very collaborative communities. Some have a lot of foreign students and few cultural norms ‒ you may well not fit in at all of the schools. So in this type of essay, you need to demonstrate that you’ve taken the pulse of the school, and that it’s an environment in which you’ll thrive. You also need to show that you understand what the school cares about, and that this is aligned with your own values and beliefs.
For MBA essays tips on another type of MBA essay, see our previous blog How to Get Noticed in Just One Essay. As the next step of this series, we’ll address essay questions related to self-reflection and how to handle open-ended questions.