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MBA programs ask you to write essays so that they can gain an understanding of who you are in ways that cannot be gleaned from your transcripts, test scores, resume, or letters of recommendation. Your essays are your emissaries and represent you directly whereas other aspects of the application package, while important, only represent you indirectly. Because the MBA application process is highly competitive, the quality of applicants is going to be substantially higher than you may remember from your college applications. This is why it's especially important that your essays are as strong as they can be.

Understand who reads your essays

Your personal statements serve a vital purpose within the context of your overall applications. Specifically, they're your chance to speak directly to the admissions officers who typically work collaboratively as part of an admissions committee. The committee will likely be comprised of professors within the program, administrators, and it is becoming increasingly common for schools to include current students on the committee.

The goal of this committee is to craft a well-balanced, diverse, and accomplished incoming class. MBA programs take particular pride in the statistics and accomplishments of their incoming class, and this is why they are interested in your essays. Things like business experience and accomplishments are weighed heavily, and it can be difficult to highlight these things anywhere besides an essay. For these reasons, your essays are of particular importance to the admissions committee.
Make your essays focused and specific

When deciding on the content of your essays, think in terms of experiences that placed you at a crossroads. Choose anecdotes from your personal and professional background where you can demonstrate self-reflection and the ability to change your mindset and methods according to the lessons you have learned. You need to show that you have strong critical thinking skills and unique aspects of your background so that you can contribute to classroom discussions in a way that no other applicant can.

At the same time, you also need to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you understand where your growth areas are and why you need an MBA education to progress in your career. One of the most common mistakes that we see in MBA application essays is writing all of the essays as if the applicant has no real weaknesses. Applicants tend to do this not out of arrogance but out of the desire to show that they are a strong applicant. However, MBA programs want to select applicants who will take advantage of everything the program has to offer, so make specific connections between the program and your goals.

Make your essays work together

Most MBA programs ask for more than one essay, and prompts tend to be very specific in the kind of experience or situation that should be included in the essay. Therefore, as you brainstorm your essays, look at the overall picture. What are you trying to convey to the admissions officers about your background and potential? Although each essay should be unique with minimal overlap, they should also work together like chapters in a book. What is the overarching theme? Do your essays provide a comprehensive picture to the admissions officers?

By asking for more than one essay, MBA admissions committees are letting you know that they want to gain a three-dimensional understanding of who you are. Because of this, let them see you managing diverse situations and succeeding even in the face of obstacles. Throughout the essays, reflect the characteristics that will give the admissions officers confidence in your ability to succeed in their program and lead in the business world.

Remember the interview

Finally, keep the interview in mind as you create your essays. During the interview, you will likely be asked to elaborate on what you wrote about and reflect on those experiences at an even deeper level than you did in the essay. Also, keep your notes about potential anecdotes that you brainstormed but ultimately decided not to include in your essays. You'll be able to readily draw upon those experiences during the interview to add more breadth to your background and better show your readiness for MBA studies.