MBA Personal Statements and Essays: An Overview

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, October 31, 2013
Since MBA programs are some of the most competitive educational institutions in the world, applying is no walk in the park. The quality of applicants is going to be substantially higher than you may remember from your college applications, so it’s particularly important that all parts of your application – your personal statement in particular – are as strong as they can be.

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Personal Statements and Their Readers

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 read your applications. Thus, it’s important to understand who those admissions officers are and how you can make a strong, positive impression on them.

With that said, who’s going to be reading your MBA admissions essays? The simple answer is a committee of admissions professionals who are looking 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 their admissions officers thus go to impressive lengths to get to know prospective applicants. Because things like business experience and accomplishments are weighed so heavily, and because it can be difficult to highlight these things anywhere besides an essay, your essays are of particular importance to the admissions committee.

In addition, most MBA applicants often have a chance to meet a member of the admission committee firsthand in an interview. Thus, your essays often serve as an inspiration for the conversations you will have then. You should make sure and write on topics that you can address and elaborate on later during your interviews.

Your MBA Essay Must Focus on You

First off, ensure that the content you decide to include in your work is intimately connected to you. One of the most common ways in which MBA applicants weaken their statements is by including vague generalizations or not clearly explaining how something connects to them. You’re applying to undertake advanced study in the complexities of business, but that doesn’t mean you should focus solely on that field; don’t forget that everyone else who’s applying to this particular program has a similar command of and passion for business, even if their particular backgrounds differ. You need to show how you are unique in your connection to this field.

Take the following statement for instance: “I have built leadership abilities and teamwork skills through my experience working as a supervisor.” Such a statement is general and clichéd; virtually every applicant to an MBA program can say such things, and you don’t set yourself apart from the crowd at all.

Instead, you should say something like, “As regional youth coordinator, I led a diverse team of volunteers in cleaning up our city’s park, a volunteer undertaking that strengthened my leadership skills." This statement speaks to your specific work, and explains what you did while also highlighting your strengths and successes.

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